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.

 

Still Tapping Away. (with frustration.)

My goal is to learn to write. Not just postcards, journal entries, and “honey-do” lists for Jim. I want to write a book. Toward that end, I’ve been studying. Here’s what’s happening: I’m spending all my time studying and very little time writing.

I figured out why. I dunno’ what the heck to write. How does an author yank a work of fiction out of the ether? I seem only able to write about my personal experiences.

I’ve had oceans of experiences I’d relish sharing, but other participants in those adventures might end up suing me for libel. Anne Lamott of Bird by Bird tells me to turn the law-suit worthy stuff into fiction. She suggests changing enough details of the romps the actual players would be unlikely to recognize themselves. I suppose I could try that. However, those incidents are merely moments. I’d need to figure out what story strings those random snapshots together. That’s the hard part.

Stephen King’s On Writing suggests I play a “what if” game.

What if a short round middle-class housewife found herself in prison for a murder she didn’t commit? Or maybe she can’t remember committing.

What if a floorboard slid aside to reveal a never before seen staircase? Where does it lead and who follows it?

What if I fell asleep here, in the twenty-first century, but woke up three hundred years in the past. Or the future?

Stephen King also told me (yes, we are close) not to speak in a passive voice. And not to use adverbs. Those two things will reveal me as a beginner. They will also expose me as timid.

He suggests writing in a genre I enjoy reading. I like historical fiction and non-fiction. And pretty much everything else as long as the writing is good. I did not like Bridges of Madison County. Sappy. I steadfastly refuse to read Jacqueline Suzanne, or bodice ripping romance novels. I do confess I succumbed to reading the Fifty Shades of Gray series.  Embarrassing admission, but I wanted to know what the fuss was.

I’m obtuse when it comes to poetry. I think poetry is for people far smarter and deeper than I. Unless Dr. Seuss wrote the poem. I get him.
(FYI: At first I wrote, “Unless the poem was written by Dr. Seuss” then realized that’s passive. Fixed it. No rookie mistakes for this old girl.)

Yesterday I went to the library and picked up other books about learning to write. There is a shelf full of them. Dewey decimal system number 808. The librarian recommended a couple of DVDs along with the books. I brought those home too. The writer, Anne Perry, narrates them herself. She has a British accent. I’m deaf. Couldn’t understand a word she said. The DVDs go back to the library tomorrow. I’ll try to exercise self-discipline and not check out six more “how to write” books.

Natalie Goldberg says she often wool-gathers. She stares into the distance then goes for a snack. So far I’m best at following Natalie’s suggestions. I often I find myself staring into space or standing in front of the open refrigerator, unsure how I came to be there.

I just had a Natalie Goldberg moment. Wandered to the cabinet, pulled out our blue and white Graceland mug, sprayed it with Pam, beat an egg and microwaved it.
While eating, I read a bit more of Stephen King.

He told me to write what I see. Right now what I see is a sixty-five-year-old woman who is procrastinating. I’m supposed to write 1000 words a day, eventually working up to 2,000. Here I’m at maybe 600 words.

What else do I see? I see the egg crusted Graceland mug in the kitchen sink. To my left, I see an Oceania cruise brochure Jim says he will read, but I suspect not. The booklet has been gathering dust for a week. On top of the brochure is a scratch pad with a leopard print cardboard cover and on top of that is a solar-powered calculator.

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To my right is a black Pentel .07 Energel pen. I buy those from Amazon even though we have drawers full of ballpoint pens. Jim’s travel hobby is stealing pens wherever we go. However, they don’t write “fast.” Natalie Goldberg told me to use fast pens. Pentel .07 Energel’s are my favorite. They are speedy, yet here I sit tapping on the keyboard instead of scribbling with a Pentel in my composition book.

Behind me, sacked out on our area rug I see a drugged brown dog. Due to storms, I gave Bronson Xanax about an hour ago. Loud thunder turns him into drooling, trembling, tail tucked between his legs mess.

I see a big metal spoon and fork hanging to the left of the kitchen door. On another wall I see three mammoth cows, gazing at me, asking, “What are you wasting your time for?”

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On the floor below the cows, I see a green dog dish, a stainless steel water bowl, and one slightly deflated soccer ball.

Picking up dog toys is the story of my life. I gathered seven from the dining room this morning and dropped them into the sturdy brass bucket my parents got as a wedding gift in 1939. Since then Bronson has retrieved all seven as well as about four more and happily littered them around the house. That was before the Xanax. Now that he’s stoned it might be a good time to clean up again.

Okay, Stephen, I’m up to almost 1000 words, and I’m boring myself. Odds are my six regular readers nodded off 717 words ago.

So with that, I’ll sit my ample backside in my swivel chair, meditate and pray some brilliant book idea manifests itself into my weary gray matter.

What I should do is what Faulkner suggested: “*Murder your darlings.” But I won’t because with this very sentence I crossed the 1000 word finish line! Whoooo Hooooo.

* A Google search revealed Arthur Quiller-Couch was the first to use this phrase.