An adventure in Galena

Who: Sandy, Jane, and Alice
What: Girl’s weekend
Where: Galena, Illinois
Why: Giggles, gossip, good times, a bit of the grape and the occasional shot of whiskey (for medicinal purposes only).
When: November 8th–November 11, 2018

Galena is a charming old town that was once the largest steamboat hub on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. It was the home of Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Today, the city, on the banks of the Galena River, is a tourist destination known for its history, architecture, and resorts.

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My friend Jane has lived there for over twenty years. Her Welsh husband Andy is the city’s chief engineer. He surely has many duties but to me, the most impressive is deciding when the floodgates are to be closed.
River rising? Andy saves the day by preventing a deluge.

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In the spring Andy will retire. He and Jane plan to sell their 1830’s era house on the steepest street ever and move to Wales.

Sandy and I reasoned it might be some time before we see Jane again, unless we visit Wales as we did for her wedding twenty-one years ago.
A group of American ladies descended on Llandudno, Wales, wearing our “country club casual” frocks. One Welsh guest dubbed us the “fancy ladies.”

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Andy’s home was at the top of the Orme, the limestone headland soaring above the seaside resort of Llandudno, Wales.

This past May Sandy and I made plans to fly into Chicago O’Hare, meet there, then puddle jump to the Dubuque, Iowa airport.

O’Hare is crowded, teeming with harried passengers. No eye contact, no smiles.

Until you get into line with travelers to Dubuque!

The burly guy behind us wanted to know our story. The man across the aisle had us laughing. The lady in the mysterious black hat and dark glasses said something that made Sandy guffaw. Me, deaf as a post, didn’t hear it. I asked Sandy. She said, “I didn’t hear it either. But Black Hat laughed so I figured I should too.” In a few years, I won’t be the only one wearing hearing aids.

We flew in a small aircraft up for half an hour, then back down for half an hour, landing at the tiny Dubuque airport. Sandy commented the terminal looks like a library.

Jane met us, drove us over the hilly landscape, up her steep street, then onto her perpendicular driveway. We had to lug our suitcases along nine towering steps to get to the side door. She must have taken sympathy on us.  She has never taken us to the side door before. Generally, Jane likes to torture Sandy and me by forcing us to trudge another the long staircase to her front door.

Years ago, when I was actually in fairly good shape, the walk from town to Jane’s front door nearly killed me. I’ve been pretty sedentary for the last few years.  Therefore, since our August move to a twenty-ninth floor condo,  I’ve been preparing for the painful hike up her steep hill.

Each day I trudge from our twenty-ninth floor apartment up the stairs to the thirty-fourth floor. I stand at the top of the staircase, panting.  Then I exit the stairwell and wait for the elevator to take me home to twenty-nine.

Yes, I should trudge the stairs back to twenty-nine. No, I don’t.

I was pretty proud of my stair-climbing routine until I learned our neighbor Mark–the over achiever–hikes up from one to twenty-nine and back down again twice a day.

Thursday evening we had an easy trek downhill to Main Street to eat dinner at Cannova’s Italian Restaurant. Gluten-free white pizza for me. Yum. So much for the low carb diet.

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My big after dinner worry was trudging back up vertical Dodge Street. Fortunately, those daily trips to thirty-four paid off. I didn’t expire on the frozen pavement.

Thursday night, while we were sleeping, Jane had several Etsy sales.  She has a very successful shop–GladysGlover.
During her years as an Etsy shop owner, she’s had over 3,000 sales. Including selling a brass corgi door knocker to Stephen King and ceramic knife rests to Sophia Vergara!  Pretty neat to imagine author Stephen King reading Jane’s amusing descriptions of “miscellaneous fripperies”.

Friday morning Jane bundled her sold treasures for shipping and headed to the Post Office.  It was a balmy 19 degrees in Galena. Why should Sandy and I get dressed, go out, and freeze? We were still in our PJ’s at three-thirty when, on an arctic blast, Jane blew in the front entry.

Other weekend adventures? Dinner at the historic Desoto House Hotel, a thrilling field trip to Piggly Wiggly, latte’s at Books a Million, candy at Barbara Jane’s chocolate shop, and dinner with a magic show at Amelia’s.

Our flights out were on Sunday.   That morning we crossed the mighty Mississippi from Illinois to Iowa and dropped Sandy off for her 11 a.m. departure.

Then Jane and I drove to River Light’s, a charming independent bookstore.  Low and behold it was their holiday open house. Food! Mimosa’s! Free gifts with purchase!  I scored a box of tacky Christmas sweater notecards complete with dozens of ugly stickers for DIY designs.

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I’ve read that book, You are a Badass. I’m using the positive thinking tips to manifest a lottery win.
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Here are the tacky sweater notes, plus I bought a book of punny post cards and a box of fancy stationery.

After book shopping we crossed quiet Dubuque Main Street and had Mexican food for lunch. Chicken fajitas, me.  Shrimp Enchilada, Jane.  My flight was scheduled for late afternoon. I suggested she drop me at the airport and go on her merry way. Surely she’d had enough of me?

My thinking was I’d go through security, find a seat and await my plane. In my experience security means shoes off, long lines, and rubber glove wearing TSA agents digging through the carry-on.

Here is what the Dubuque Airport looks like at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon.

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Jane was kind enough to keep me company until security finally opened their gates.  I made it through and was lucky enough to find an empty chair.

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I pulled out paper and pen and spent the next hour happily doing the “morning pages” I had ignored for the past fun days.  No one bothered me.

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My flight landed at the Tampa airport about 10:30 at night.  Jim and Bronson were there to greet me.  It was wonderful to have visited my buddies. And equally wonderful to see my little family again.  Slept like a log in our 29th floor home, aka The Perch.

 

Finally, my peds got cured.

Yesterday I got my first pedicure in months.  We were so busy all summer with moving that fingernails and toenails fell by the wayside.

I took a “before” photo.  After I sent it from phone to computer and saw it enlarged I decided it’s too horrifying to include here.  Just trust me, my toes needed help.  I haven’t worn sandals since early May.  It was imperative to keep these dogs under wraps.

The Woodhouse  day spa just opened across the street. While walking Bronson in closed toe shoes (Me not him.  He goes barefoot) we stuck our heads in to see if anyone would have time to take on my sad tootsies.

The answer was “sure”.  I took Bdog home again, dug out a pair of sandals, and headed back to the spa.  The place is quite elegant.  They recently had a splashy open house complete with piles of appetizers and oceans of wine.  Many people from our building were there.  We were all gifted with a card for ten percent off all future products and services.

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My pedicurist was named Meimee.  While she struggled to restore order to foot chaos, I sat and wrote several pages in the red Mead notebook I take to writer’s workshop.

My morning pages–as suggested by Julia Cameron– have their own Mead notebooks. I’m on my third.  The first was aqua.  The second was yellow.  The present black one is nearly full.  Next will be kelly green, then purple and then I get to buy six more spiral notebooks on Amazon Prime.  Yay! The little things in life, eh?

I almost didn’t bother going to class.  Saturday Market was yesterday.  We went early to get the farm fresh eggs before they sold out. If you haven’t purchased extremely fresh eggs I recommend it.  They are divine.

The class began at 10.  Did I really want to bother showering and manifesting a face in only half an hour?

Jim reminded me how much I’d relished it the week before, so I pulled my act together, put on my closed toe shoes and went to school.

I was a couple of minutes late.  The group was asking each other questions to sort out what they had in common.  Supposedly this is a helpful exercise in character building.  Bob-group leader and all together fun guy-asked me several things.  First, “Where are you from?”

“Delaware.”  No common ground there.

Second, “What’s your favorite food?”

“Cream Cheese.  Out of the package.  Eaten with a fork.” Everyone laughed.  Weird since cream cheese really is feast from the God’s.  I never did hear Bob’s favorite food.  But I noticed he ate a Starbucks cookie during the workshop.

At the end of class we did a ten minute timed writing.  Our hands were not to pause.  It was freeing.  I decided to repeat the exercise and continue writing all through my pedicure.  Which, given the miserable state of my feet, would last more than a mere ten minutes.

As I wrote and Meimee worked I spent the time manifesting the three million dollar lottery win I have planned.  I’ve budgeted $16 a month for tickets, invested as follows: One two dollar ticket weekly on Mega Millions and two one dollar tickets weekly on Florida lotto.

So far I’ve only played twice.

I didn’t win last week.  Which was good because Florida Lotto was only up to 2.5 million. It is rolled over to 3 million now. I’m buying all the tickets from mom and pop places so they’ll win money too.  Ain’t I generous?

I have my winnings earmarked.  Fifty percent will go to two causes near and dear to  my heart.  Another percentage, not yet decided, will be pledged to NPR.  The lion’s share will go to our four kids.  The remainder will be for us.

I know Jim will want to use lots of it for travel.  Since I loathe flying we’ll splurge on Business or First class tickets.

I will invest a bunch in buying stamps and thick fancy stationery.  I’ll purchase a self driving car so when we take our long road trips I don’t have to gasp and stomp on the imaginary brake when Jim follows too closely.

Another thing I’ll do is eat all the cream cheese I want then go get liposuction to remove the inevitable fat wads.  I can’t get a facelift because my daughter, the critical care nurse, tells me at my “advanced age” (ouch) the time spent under anesthesia would be dangerous.

Meimee finally inquired what I was writing.  I told her I have a blog and was working out what to blog about next.  She shared that she’s writing her life story.

I then put down my pen and asked her to share that with me. I learned her grandfather was a General in the Chinese Army during the revolution.  When China became communist he moved his family to Taiwan.  Once Meimee was three Grandpa and Grandma took her to America.  Mom stayed behind.  Meimee goes to Taiwan every few years to see her.

I found myself wishing my hearing was better.  Between the bubbling water and her slight accent I missed a few answers to my questions.  Everyone has a book in them, don’t they?

Here is what Meimee created!

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Yes, I have the tiniest toenails on the planet.

Now, I have to go manifest a crab boil at Lynda and Rusty’s house.  She recently  had us for one and it was delicious.  She said, “Don’t tell Mama we did this while she was out of town. She will be mad to have missed it.”

Erika, aka Mama, was picking apples in Connecticut.  Naturally, I sent Mama a postcard and tattled.  Now Mama is recovering from a knee replacement at Lynda’s home.  I’m pretty certain a crab boil would be exactly what the doctor would order for  speedy recovery.  And Lynda, I’ll supply the crab, shrimp, sausage.  You just cook it all up in a pan.  Yay for manifesting great things!

Now all you good and gentle readers–go forth and prosper.

Writing Workshop

I took my first writing class yesterday.  It was called Writing for Self Discovery.  I felt so shy.  I was nervous to read my stuff out loud.  I was reminded about a book I had read earlier–Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art.  In it, he talks about the difference between an amateur and a professional.   An amateur gives in to fear.  A pro pushes through the fear.

I have to turn professional.  I have to keep putting one word in front of another, day after day, year after year.  I’m almost sixty-seven.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.  But fear of writing badly stopped me.

Of course, my early writing will be bad.  My early paintings were downright embarrassing.  I still shudder when I recall the barn Lynn commissioned me to paint for her parents.  But I kept painting.  And the muscles got stronger.

I will keep writing and expect to eventually get better.

The writing teacher, Maureen, writes poetry.  I don’t  “get” poetry.  I think I’m too literal for poetry.  If I were a poet I’d have to make all the lines rhyme.

Every morning I force myself to write three pages, as recommended by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way.  Some days I can barely think of anything to write.  So I just start rhyming.  Don’t do it.  It becomes a sickness.  I have a friend, Herb, who used to read signs backwards.  He warned me NEVER to start doing that or I wouldn’t be able to stop.  I texted him about my rhyming sickness.

Here is what he texted back to me.

“I thguoht id ekat eht emit ot ekam siht egassem emyhr.  I deen ot ees a esrun ot kaerb em fo siht esruc.”

Three pages, with a fountain pen.  When I begin to write about all the things I’m grateful for the writing flows and I can go on for even four or more pages.

Blah blah blahing away.  I never go back to reread my morning pages.  I started this practice in June.  At that time we were still living in our Palm Harbor home.  Then the summer of condo happened.  Now we live in a high rise.  I can walk to the library.  And to my writing classes.

I haven’t felt like sewing at all since the move.  I will keep my wool for a year.  If I haven’t begun making purses again by next September, the bins get taken out of the closet.  We need all the storage space we can find.Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 2.08.51 PM.png

Somewhat related blog posts:

The Artist’s Way

Adventures with wool continue.

I manifested a condominium​!

Our HOA $ at work

So this happened on September 24th.

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We were told to expect window washers, but it still astonished me to look out our bedroom window and see a man dangling twenty-nine floors above the ground.

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Eeek, right?  They missed a few spots on our kitchen windows.  We’ll have to live with it for six months. They’ll be back again in March.

Condo living provides entertainment.

 

 

What’s the point?

It’s 3:11 a.m.  I just woke from a dream.  My experience with dreams is they pretty much evaporate with the light.  Even a nightlight will zap a dream.   Poof, gone.

Here clear as day one minute. Then (zap) gone.

What I do recall is the gist of the dream was “purpose”.  My purpose.  As I age I have become entrenched in the notion we were all made for a reason.  I don’t know my reason.  I don’t need to know.  I just need to trust and (blindly) move forward when I hear/see/sense the whisper.

A power–God/Universe/Spirit in the Sky/Giant Cosmos Smarty Pants is in charge.

Just dug up the song playing at the edge of my mind.

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
That’s where you’re gonna go when you die
When you die and they lay you to rest
You’re gonna go to the place that’s the best

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best

I can, as if through a giant time machine microscope, remember Robbie Jones dancing to this song.  Thanks, Universe, for that delightful memory.  Robbie was the U of D drum major.  We dated for a year or so. I was smitten.  He, I later learned, was gay.  What a delight he was. God/Universe/Spirit in the Sky/Giant Cosmos Smarty Pants created marvelous  Robbie.  He was a brilliant light in the world for a short time.  Died of AIDS.  I love to imagine he is dancing on the other side.

Robbie was here for a reason.  I dunno’ that reason.  Maybe to enlighten me? ( Golly, is it all about you, Alice?)

I plan to toddle back to bed.  I hope the evasive “what’s my purpose” dream comes back to me. I’d like to see the ending.

But the ending doesn’t matter.  I know I was created for a reason by a power as strong as God/Universe/Spirit in the Sky/Giant Cosmos Smarty Pants.  Delicious to fall back on that and simply trust. Yay!  Let me give up the steering wheel. I’m a dreadful driver.

God/Universe/Spirit in the Sky/Giant Cosmos Smarty Pants….go for it.  I am in your hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our most recent field trip

Our aggressively white interior had to go so we picked a color, hired a painter, and went to buy the paint.

Going to the paint store meant getting into the car–something we rarely do these days.  While we were out we chose to have lunch at one of our favorite places.  Harvey’s 4th Street Grill.

I always intend to take a photo of my food before I dig in, but since hunger overtakes reason, I never remember.  Here’s my lunch.  Partially eaten blackened salmon.

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The very best thing we saw today was this–

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Could we (please) have a functioning adult in the Oval come 2020? These shirts can be purchased at Amazon.  The sentiment is also available as a bumper sticker.  This lady said she was driving her car when someone flagged her down. She was afraid it was a road rage thing–we do, after all, live in Florida. Trump territory.

Turned out the person stopping her simply wanted to know where they could get the same bumper sticker.  Maybe the tide is turning?  Fingers crossed.

Destination Mazzaro’s

We get together with Steve and Diane monthly for “Game Night”  We play QwirkleMexican Train, or maybe cards.  Once we played Clue but decided it took too much thinking.  It is, after all, designed for eight-year-olds. When we play our mentality shifts to six or under.

My favorite is Mexican Train.  Steve and Diane’s version is better than ours. Theirs has a button to press when you are down to one tile and a “WHOOOO WHOOOOO” train sound plays.  In our house, the down-to-one-tile person has to do the Whooo Whooo aloud.

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Steve and Diane put together the most beautiful charcuterie platters.  Fancy word, that.  I think it means Cheese and Meat and other random snacks.  I don’t know how to pronounce it, or how to duplicate their marvelous rendition.  BUT, now that we live in Saint Petersburg we have a secret charcuterie platter weapon.

Mazzaro’s Italian Market!

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Prior to moving here, I’d heard of Mazzaro’s.  So, shortly after we got settled we took a field trip to the huge ethnic market.  I was overwhelmed.  The place was packed with shoppers and loaded with foods I didn’t understand.  Philadelphia cream cheese is about as exotic as I get.

That visit we left with a biscotti.  One.  For Jim.

Yesterday we decided to take the plunge again.  We were determined to go slow and enjoy the process.

About Mazzaro’s—I found the following description online:

Enter the always lively St. Petersburg food emporium known as Mazzaro Italian Market and you can easily mistake the scene for a bustling, European street lined with butcher shops, bakeries, produce stands and displays of freshly caught fish and fragrant cheeses.

Mazzaro’s Old World ambiance may even trigger a childhood memory of a long-ago visit to a neighborhood grocery with a loved one.

“We are selling time travel,” says Kurt Cuccaro, whose family founded the local landmark. “Shopping at Mazzaro may transfer you to a time when growing up, there was a place you used to go to with your grandparents. Or it may remind you of somewhere you once lived, a store you used to shop at or a market in Europe.”

From its humble beginnings as a boutique coffee roasting operation, Mazzaro grew to become a beloved, robust retail destination that is among the Tampa Bay area’s most enduring –and endearing – businesses.

That metamorphosis from a modest mom-and-pop shop into a sprawling, 25,000-square-foot market makes Mazzaro the ultimate convenience store. With just one stop, shoppers can fill their baskets with foods from around the world, as well as locally sourced items from around the block. They can select from vast arrays of fresh meats and seafood, freshly made bread, pastries and pasta, signature soups and sandwiches, and well-stocked shelves displaying whatever is needed to make gourmet meals from scratch.

I wandered around with my phone taking photos.  Who knew there were so many versions of balsamic vinegar?

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And sausages?  We were in way over our heads.  I grabbed a small salami of some sort.  Cut it up earlier today.  It’s hard as a rock but delicious.  The one I picked came out of the little basket to the left of the “Please take a number” thing.  That guy to the right of the numbers saw me taking the photo and wanted to know if he was “lookin’ good”.  I assured him he was.

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Look at all the amazing prepared foods!

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The walls inside and out have been handpainted with scenes of Italy, and pictures of famous Italians.

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Also offered a butcher, handmade pasta and pastries!  Oh my.  Those pastries look sinfully delicious. Fortunately, not a single pastry was gluten free which saved me from me.

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I have a sneaking suspicion Mazzaro’s owners might be Catholic.  Your thoughts?

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Here is the assortment of delights we lugged home.  I will NOT be getting on the scale in the morning.  To all this, we will be adding crackers and fruit.  Now I have to display it in an appetizing looking way.  I should do that and add a photo.  But won’t.  Want this blog post published.

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Steve and Diane should be here soon.  I always lose at these games.  I have no knack for “strategery.”  But it’s all about the laughs.  And the food.

 

 

 

Jolly Trolley. Our adventure with public transportation.

Moving to Saint Petersburg was in part driven by a desire for a one-car lifestyle.  I wanted to walk to everything available.  If not walk, then take a bus.

Therefore, yesterday Jim and I decided to take the St. Petersburg Central Trolley from downtown St. Pete, where we live, all the way to Pass-a-Grille Beach at the Southern edge of St. Pete Beach.  The ride was expected to last about an hour.

We toted along two umbrellas, one water bottle, and Bronson’s phony service dog vest. Our little family walked four blocks to the trolley stop.  We boarded the bus, paying $1.10 per person senior fare.  I asked the driver if she needed to verify my senior status by seeing my ID.  She looked me up and down, peered directly into my face then laughed out loud.  So much for my “I certainly do not look my age” fantasy.

She inquired if Bronson was a pet.  I stated, “No, Service Animal.  Do you want him in his vest?”  She replied, “Nope, just need to ask.”

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Our Trolley Dog.

 

The trolley stops every couple of blocks in downtown St. Petersburg.  Most riders are dressed for the heat.  Tank tops, flip flops, shorts.  At 7th Avenue North we picked up a woman clothed unlike the other passengers.  She had on a broad black sunhat with a gold chain around the crown, lovely sheath dress, large gold beaded necklace, and heels.

I assumed it was her church outfit.  She held up the line attempting to swipe her card. The machine kept rejecting her pass.  A rider behind her recommended just paying the fare.

That’s when Church Lady went Linda Blair.  She screeched, “I’ll be damned if I’m paying again!  I paid too much for this damn card in the first place.” As she careened down the aisle her rant continued.  She plopped down in the back row, howled a few more choice words, then settled back in her seat.

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When she was behind us I pretended to take a selfie.  Florida is a concealed carry state.  I didn’t intend to get myself shot by a demented trolley passenger for taking her photo.

Titters all around, surreptitious glances at other riders, and off we went.  For some reason, CL decided to move a row forward.  She sat in the seat opposite Jim’s.  I considered another photo but could picture her reaching into that big green bag and pulling out a Colt 45.  Left my phone on my lap.

About five stops later a somewhat stoned but harmless looking young man boarded.  He snoozed a few blocks, then climbed off the bus.  I watched as he began to walk away. Suddenly he turned, chased the bus and pounded on the windows.  Everyone was alarmed until it became apparent he was stopping the trolley for two bikers who would otherwise have missed it.

As they loaded their bikes to the front of the bus, Church Lady yelled, “Illegal!” She then held up her left hand, fingers outstretched in the universal, “Stop!” gesture.  I was amazed that several fellow passengers took her on, demanding she put her arm down and shut up.

Didn’t they know about the pistol in her tote?

Thereupon she marched herself to the front seat, glaring at anyone who made eye contact.

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A short while later she exploded again.  “I’m calling 911!  I’m having you locked up!  Arrested. Thrown behind bars. Put in jail.”  That guy in the yellow and blue shirt was nuts enough to demand she dummy up.  Several passengers behind me hollered at her. I hoped I didn’t get caught in the cross-fire.

Fortunately, she disembarked several blocks down the road.  The drama behind us.

We began watching for the “Pass-a-Grill Way” trolley stop.  Through Trip Advisor I’d identified The Brass Monkey on Pass-a-Grill as someplace to have lunch.  When the driver announced “Pass-a-Grill Way and 31st Street” I turned to Jim and said, “Do I pull the stop wire now?”

“Sure, why not.” he replied.

Here’s why not.  The Monkey Bar is at Pass-a-Grill Way and 8th Street.

We decided a walk would do us all good.  I pulled out my SPF 50+ umbrella and off we went.  After 4 blocks we realized walking in 90-degree heat was doing us no good at all.  At 26th Street we located a red and yellow Central Trolley stop sign.

Bronson and I hunkered down in a patch of shade while Jim patiently watched for the next bus.  The stench from Red Tide was sickening.  Few cars passed. And no trolleys trundled by for an half hour.

 

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Patient Jim, watching for the bus.

Eventually, we got a coach.  We were required to pay another $1.10 each.  But we wound up half a block from our destination.  The red tide smell was even worse so close to the sand so Jim requested a table indoors.  Many people were wearing masks.

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The place was busy with enthusiastic Buccaneers fans eager to see their team defeat the Eagles.

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We each ordered an adult beverage and food.  I love eating a very late lunch–at that point, it was 3:30.  It’s a trick allowing me to escape cooking dinner.  Following our meal, it was back on the trolley for home.  This time we didn’t make the mistake of pulling the “stop the bus” cord early.

Tonight we are headed to “Six on Seven” the regular Monday night gathering at six p.m. on the seventh floor.  I’ve got my mother’s meatloaf recipe prepared and ready to tuck into the oven as we walk out the door.  I’ve been making it for years.  It has two healthy tablespoons of horseradish mixed in.  Delicious.  And enough for leftovers tomorrow night.

So, good news for me, no cooking again tomorrow!

 

The dust has​ finally settled.

This summer has been a whirlwind.  We made an offer on The Perch (formerly know as Cloud Condo) on Memorial Day weekend.  It’s now Labor Day weekend and our lives have taken a marvelous 180-degree turn.

We still have some artwork to hang, a small chest of drawers to paint and then we need to hire someone to roll over these blindingly white walls.  But once that’s all done we will be totally MOVED!

From my seat, I can see The Central Avenue Trolley making it’s way South.  It will be my carriage to writing classes.  Because I no longer have a car.

We sold Gracie the Mini-Van.  We relocated to Saint Petersburg in large part to take advantage of the many places within walking distance.

A short list:  The Dali Museum.  The Holocaust Museum.  James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.  The new Imagine Museum.  We visited there yesterday. It’s all art glass.  Our neighbor works at Imagine and gave us a private tour.  Fascinating.  If you visit St. Pete, do yourselves the favor of–visit the Imagine Museum.

Not within walking distance, but on my bucket list, Deadly Rival Roller Derby!  I’ve only gone to Roller Derby one time.  It was a crazy blast.  Fans crowd the rink, screaming and cheering.  Look at the website.  There is a “Bruises Gallery.”  I’d post photos, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  Jim isn’t too eager to go to Roller Derby, but Brookie will.  She’s always up for a weird time.

In other news, I recently visited Bainbridge Island Washington.  Neice Katie is divorcing, moving from the marital home to a cute guest cottage on a friends property.  My sister, Marilyn and BIL Rob flew from Colorado to help her.  Since I’m so good at moving, having just done it myself, I offered my assistance.

 

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Katie with Marilyn and Rob.

 

 

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This place will soon have a fresh coat of paint.

 

 

 

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That’s me, unpacking the stuff Katie’s kids helped me wrap that morning.  They identified all the items they see mom using regularly.  My sister and I had a tricky time figuring out where to house everything in Katie’s new tiny kitchen.  Her nest is going to be darling.  Sort of a doll-house.

 

My flight from Tampa to Seattle was delayed for three hours due to lack of visibility at Seattle airport.  Forest fire smoke.  The wait was good because I read my book club novel–Lincoln in the Bardo.  Strange book.  Writer George Saunders imagination is massive. The novel is creepily creative and in parts hilarious.

While at airport gates I usually find myself glancing around and figuring out who I hope is seated next to me.  I noticed an obese woman in a wheelchair.  She had all sorts of flotsam and jetsom hanging from her seat, a bright green frog travel pillow draped around her neck and a small white “service” dog on her lap.  The dog’s vest read, “I am an emotional support dog.”

 

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Pixie is sharing the neck pillow. She is laying atop a wee teeny dog bed.

 

I thought, “Not her, please.”  Well, guess who my seatmates were?

Shirley.  And her small white dog, Pixie.  And her curly headed adult son.

I was on the aisle, Shirley and Pixie in the window seat.  Son boarded late, hauling along his guitar which he stowed in First Class.  It was decided he wanted the window seat.  There was a grand commotion as they shifted places.  Then, as Shirley stood bent over double, Son fished through her carry on and pulled out the following:

A small white blanket.  A tiny green plastic bowl.  A beige sit-upon that looked rather like bubble wrap. A black blindfold. A spoon.  That was used to feed Pixie Thai food Son had brought on board.  (I have an aversion to stinky food being brought onto airplanes.  I suppose I could write a letter.  Right after I write to the commissioner of baseball and demand games be reduced to five innings.  We recently went to a Ray’s game.  Four innings too long.  But I digress.)

Once Shirley, Son, and Pixie were finally settled she turned to me and said, “May I please have some water for the dog?  I forgot to buy a bottle.”  I filled the small green bowl from my $4.99 bottle of Smartie Pants water and Pixie drank happily.

Did I mention Shirley was big?  Really big. She spilled over into my seat whereupon I wedged myself into the far corner, and attempted to read.  But every time Shirley made a move her very large shadow cast my book into darkness.  Ultimately she wrapped her neck in the green frog, put on the blindfold and, using both armrests, went happily to sleep.

As we landed Shirley fished a tiny comb out of her Vera Bradley purse and proceeded to groom Pixie.

Once in a lifetime, right?

Not so much.  Guess who was across the aisle from me on my flight home?  Shirley, Pixie, and Son!

Once again there was a bustle of activity as Shirley got organized.  She piled Son’s lap with a mound of detritus from her carry on.  Then had to juggle Pixie as she attempted to put her bubble wrap pillow in her seat.

I offered to hold Pixie.  As I was attempting to take a selfie with the dog, the man seated in my window seat went NUTS.

 

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Failed selfie.  

 

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Crazy guy.

 

 

He ranted, “I know the rules!  I did the work!  You can’t hold that animal. No one can touch a service dog but the owner.”  The commotion brought a flight attendant running.  The flight attendant was unable to calm Mr. Chucklehead down.  So he called the purser.

Meanwhile, I stood with Pixie balanced in my arms and tried to sort through, “What now?”  Shirley quickly relieved me of the 2-pound burden.

Then, at Chuck’s feet, I noticed a black blanket.  The blanket moved.  Underneath was a full-size white poodle. The dog’s fur was groomed into the Mohawk atop its head.  I assumed it was also wearing a service dog vest, but the owner kept hiding the poor animal beneath the blanket.

At one point I made eye contact with the dog.  Chucklehead reached down to cover the animal’s eyes, turning it’s face away from me.  Clearly, no one is to interact with his service dog. He spent the entire flight watching home movies of the animal on his telephone.  Odd.

Now, on to exercise.  I’ve been taking the elevator down four flights and hiking back up the stairs.  I’m working my way up to get in shape for a November visit to Galena, Illinois.  Friend Jane lives atop a steep hill.  We walk everywhere.  If I survive the hill I will have to mount a perpendicular driveway followed by a long set of stairs.  Sandy, the showoff, climbs mountains, rides her bike, teaches Pilates and maintains she’s going to leave me in the street to die rather than lug me along.

So, off I go!

 

 

 

 

The Artist’s Way

 

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I am rereading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.  I found the book while digging out our house in preparation for selling it.  I read The Artist’s Way in 2011 when we were on vacation.  I had just sold a fountain to Costco–my first solo design.  I was feeling flush, so promptly took my new found wealth and spent it, booking travel to Europe.  I only remembered I took the book on our adventure when I found an Oceania menu stuck between pages 138 and 139.

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Oh my goodness, did I eat a lot on that trip.  I recall sailing into Venice while eating figs slathered with cream cheese.  I gained close to a pound a day for the ten days of travel.  It was a spendid oinkilicious feeding frenzy.  Naturally, all those good meals were washed down with vats of wine glorious wine.

But I digress. Finding this book again, actually titled, The Artist’s Way A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, at this particular time is no accident.  I’m reinventing myself creatively.

I got rid of all my canvases, paints, and most of my brushes.  Jim and I dropped them off with acquaintances who are having monthly garage sales to raise money for a dog shelter.

Last night I told a group of party-goers I’d dumped those things and they looked horrified.  “What!  But you’re a painter!  Won’t you miss it?”

Nope, I won’t.

I feel a weight has been lifted.  I have painted for money for decades.  I do not associate painting with pleasure.  To me it’s a means to an end.

I need to create, just like I need to breath. But I want to create for the joy of the process.  I decided to state my truth.  I want to write.  By saying it outright I own it.  I will manifest it.  I will write.  I will take classes in creative writing.  I will journal.  I will blog.  I will trust the universe will give me what I need to live my dream.

I kept my colored pencils.  Perhaps I’ll write and illustrate children’s books.  I know I’ll do one for my grandson, Tate.  Other than that, I don’t know.  What I do know, in my gut,  is it will happen.

I’ll also continue to play around with my Brother Sewing machine, felted wool and vintage buttons.  Perhaps I’ll sell my wares at the monthly Saturday Morning Markets that take place 29 floors below our new home.  I’ve named it Cloud Condo.  I picture days when we’ll be enveloped in clouds, unable to see past the edge of our balcony.  Won’t that be eerily fun?

The Artist’s Way is waking me up.  Julia has me writing my “morning pages” daily.  Three Mead notebook sheets of whatever spills out of my mind.  And I’m not to reread them.   After I write I feel centered.  More Alice, less angst.

There are also exercises.  Jim did one.  It is in the chapter titled A Sense of Abundance.  The chapter centers our attention on our relationship to money and on allowing ourselves luxury.  Luxury means something different to everyone.  To me those cream cheese laden figs were luxury.

Each chapter has exercises.  The Sense of Abundance chapter includes an exercise called “money madness.” Jim did that one. Here is what he wrote.  I particularly like two things he said, “Money equals money.”  And “Being broke tells me I didn’t make good decisions.”

That speaks volumes to me.  I’ve been in relationships where people don’t take responsibility for their financial situation.  They lay blame on everything but their own choices.  Jim, my excellent gentle husband, hasn’t got that “It ain’t my fault” mindset.

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As I write my morning pages I record the many things I am grateful for.  Everything from little joys like cream cheese, marvelous necessities like opposable thumbs,  and the gift of this union.

Each week I am supposed to take myself on an artist’s date.  All alone.  Something that feeds my imagination.  Today my artist’s date is going to see the movie Incredibles 2.  I adore animated films, Jim, not so much.  So I and my inner artist are having a date!  Yay!