Thursday, May 27, 2010

Layover Trivia

1. What is the greatest number of parks and monuments visited in one day?
a. 2
b. 4
c. 3
d. 1
e. none of the above
2. Which animal(s) did we almost hit at 60 mph in Utah?
a. deer
b. prairie dog
c. rabbit
d. a and b
e. b and c
3. In which states did we NOT get pulled over?
a. Alabama
b. Louisiana
c. Arizona
d. all of the above
e. none of the above

4. What is the correct number of consecutive drinking hours in Nashville?
a. 3
b. 7
c. 11
d. 14
e. 16
5. What is the greatest stretch of days without a shower?
a. 4
b. 6
c. 2
d. 8
e. 7
6. What is our favorite stretch of road?
a. Alternate 89 Scenic Byway through Arizona
b. I-70 through western Colorado
c. Scenic Byway 128 to Moab, Utah
d. Highway 68 between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico
e. all of the above

7. Which rivers did we almost raft? (Had gear on and ready to go…)
a. Nolichucky and Colorado
b. Rio Grande and Arkansas
c. Chattahoochee and Colorado
d. Nolichucky and Arkansas
e. all of the above

8. Which tree did we not see on our trip?
a. Spruce Pine
b. Dogwood
c. Birch
d. Willow
e. Oak
9. What was the most unique instrument we saw being played?
a. washtub
b. hand saw
c. washboard
d. accordion
e. all of the above
10. How many states (by the end) will we have gone through?
a. 14
b. 20
c. 19
d. 17
e. 15

Spiders And Tigers And Colorado, Oh My!

The tiger’s head morphs into a giant spider and it shrieks through the fangs of a tiger. I awake, rattled and breathing heavily. I bring my hand to my chest in an attempt to soothe from the nightmare and shake the cobwebs out of my head while freezing in my not-so-40-degree sleeping bag.

Later that morning we embark on our hike through Temple Canyon with Bridget’s friend Willie. I’m hoping that the freakishly terrifying animal from my sleep isn’t a premonition of wildlife we’ll meet on the trail. After fording Grape Creek, the red rock scramble opens up into a 100-foot oval carved by water and wind. Thank you Mother Earth for the hand and foot holds that allow us to experience the inside of this masterpiece of nature. Bridget and I feel like queens surveying our land while Willie searches for the most challenging ways to traverse the crumbling rock around us. On an out-and-back hike, the "back" part seems so go much quicker; we maneuver through Cholo cacti toward the trailhead without any run-ins with tiger-spiders. (Whew!)

Our next stop is Longmont, Colorado to visit my friend Leah who emotionally rafted a class five part of my life five years ago- chemotherapy and radiation. Brij and I make an exception to use interstates to get to Leah's since we'd like to get there in time for dinner. We are introduced to Gwen, her darling of a daughter that I immediately fall in love with. Being in her presence, I recall that time of my life so vividly and with gratitude for the opportunity to be here, seeing her future in her daughter’s eyes. Maybe the terrifying tiger-spider actually represents represents the fierce feminine spirit that rages through Leah, Bridget and Gwen. Maybe it wasn’t scary omen, but one of love and rejuvenation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

ADD Flares In New Mexico

“Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!” I knew I’d love Eileen long before I met her, but this expression of her frustration solidified my certainty. We take the highway the opposite direction of the house and her response is the ultimate validation; I can’t think of a better way of expressing how I feel about wrong turns. An hour later we arrive at their exquisite adobe home where we are greeted with hugs, kisses and “It’s great to meet you.”

They suggest we shop The Plaza, browse the galleries on Canyon Road, visit Museum Hill and sample Cowgirl's margaritas. We begin at The Plaza and browse southwestern boutiques; sadly, the only thing we can afford is a peanut butter filled truffle covered with chili infused chocolate. We savor the treat breezing through a hall of necklaces handmade from turquoise, silver and gemstones guarded by their Native American crafters at the Palace of Governors. My curiosity is so piqued by their history of hardship that I’m tongue-tied and questions I want to ask fade like background into the red rock walls.

Arriving at Museum Hill shortly afterward, New Mexican margaritas creep into our minds and cause us to abandon exquisite art for recommendation number three: Cowgirl. Butternut squash casserole is the perfect accoutrement to happy hour margaritas and O-M-G… if I had ten thumbs, I’d put them all up for that delectable dish.

We plan to stop at Roy's favorite spa in Ojo Caliente on our way to Taos, but we accidentally take the scenic route. Although chasing the mirage through the canyon was well worth the omission of the spas, I’d like to return to Santa Fe when my attention span is longer than five minutes for anything except prickly pear margaritas.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Big Spoon and Other Texan Stories

An arm wrestling contest ensues after bidding farewell to friends and a prolonged match between She and I continues. Our eyes are flirting, hands tangling. We smile mischievously. I push her arm toward the table until I hear, “Do you want this to end, Abbie?”
I ease off and my face lights up.

Bridget grants me the extra day that I beg to spend soaking in Her intriguing world. She and I create memories of silliness, begin to learn each other, hike Enchanted Rock, share stories, throw a ball for Her pup, steal glances and sip Lone Star around a pickin’ circle in Luckenbach. I am swept up by this Texas tornado. She stands next to Cypress Creek and it reflects her radiance while her laughter reverberates through my body. She’s leaving an imprint of her spirit on my being.

It’s time to rip off the band-aid. She heads to work and Bridget and I rig the car to flip once again. I inhale and close my eyes, knowing that I’ll see this cabin again soon. I leave a Hansel and Gretel trail of intention and emotion scribbled on scraps of paper as we drive toward Guadalupe Peak. Wind tousles my hair and I beam thinking about her flirtatious smile during that arm wrestling match. No, Erin… it’s not over.

Comida Y Bebidas, Tejas

Bridget and I decide to go in our own directions in Texas since I need to reconnect with my past and she is set to meet Matt’s friends, family and family of friends.

Donnie and I exchange gay stories over Belgian trippels and waffle fries at the Flying Saucer. Melinda and I reminisce over a margarita lunch about the rattling off ingredients of the Yvette Sauce to hungry patrons fifty times each night before racing out of work to get plastered and play pool. Later, Lauren and Erica add conversational flavor to our Tex-Mex dinner with gossip about fellow 2000 Madison graduates, Lauren’s preparation for motherhood and Erica’s responsibilities of sainthood.

BAM! Bella decides to bail on the world of newspapers for a long weekend to frolic with me and mutual friends in Tejas. Thank you, thank you, to my sister who drops everything to be where she is needed. We stay with our friends, Laura and Lori in San Antonio who lift us with laughter and fix scrumptious food.

Erin and Jennie drive from Wimberley to swoop us into a world of more margaritas, Mexican food and a trip to H-E-B before we return to Wimberley for a party in a cabin on Cypress Creek. Laura and Lori drive up and micro-manage the grilling of chicken while I chop mint and carve mangoes. Wine flows like the Cypress while Jennie and Bella catch up on life between chapters three and four of “How To Become A Lesbian,” coached by Erin and I…

Thursday, May 6, 2010

N'awlins: Beyond Just Hurricanes

“It’s back. It’s totally back.” Like Katrina never happened, the French Quarter hops with hurricane hubs and Cajun cuisine while beads are tossed by women in lace from balconies. We meet Chad, the crawfish boiler at Yo’ Mama, who drives us to Cooter Brown’s, a local beer joint away from the debauchery of the French Quarter. He reveals his account of Katrina: the 14-hour evacuation to Mississippi, returning to rubble, gratitude for the kindness of compassionates and rebuilding in the aftermath.

We frolic amidst neon signs, eat our way across the Quarter, tap the ever-flowing booze and take full advantage of that legal-to-drink-on-the-street law. It’s time to check out after a night of piano renditions of Robert Earl’s “Gringo Honeymoon” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” at Pat O’Brien’s. On our way out, we bump into gregarious Karla, immediately suggesting we visit the Ninth Ward before heading out of town.
“We were going to head over there but have been repeatedly warned that it’s too dangerous,” Bridget informs.
Karla chuckles, “Just by folks that are afraid of black people.”

Past the Quarter, shabbiness creeps in on the faces of pink, blue, green houses; crossing over the bridge our trepidation is palpable. We drive a street where houses used to be crammed so close together you could’ve heard Chad making dinner next door. They’re now expanses of overgrown grass sprinkled with empty foundations. Intermittent structures resembling homes are missing roofs, walls of brick are caved in and trees protrude from bedrooms. The air is thick with shrieks of the past’s horror and a montage of Karla’s recollections flash through my mind. “No trash pick up for a year... A nightfall curfew enforced by soldiers brought back from Iraq still programmed to shoot at will... And imagine being escorted to your home, ordered not to touch anything and the next time you return it more closely resembles piles of wood on cement than a home.”

Even five years after the storm, the booms of devastation render us silent. A man rolls down the window next to us seeing my pensive look and gleams a smile, “Life ain’t that bad!”
I blink back tears I have been fighting all day so not to scare the poor man and embrace the gratitude that electrocutes me . Hopeful, I reply, “It sure ain’t.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gettin’ Juked in Clarksdale, Mississippi

I drive while Bridget keeps me supplied with coffee and Frou Frou serenades beneath a night freckled with stars toward Robert Johnson’s Crossroads. Upon arrival we discover that if by “campground” the map meant “unused train track and parking lot,” then we would be at our destination. Being hobos at ten p.m. in a foreign town with creepsters lurking doesn’t instill confidence in safety. Despite the lack of vacancy at our contingency, the Shack Up Inn, we drive to the property to attempt negotiations to pitch a tent. The Inn was once a cotton plantation, complete with a gin and slave homes which have been converted to cozy cabins. On the porch of one, we meet bearded heroes Grandpa Goose and Crazy Deano, who throw down two couches, showers and Chivas Reserve… in essence, save our lives.

A welcome surprise for the weekend is the Juke Joint Festival- a blues blowout that draws 90-year-old musicians from next door as well as up-and-comers from Australia. During a breakfast of sweet tea, grits and smoke billowing under fluorescent lights at Delta Amusement, we meet Puddin’; he performs dice and card magic with hands weathered by struggle in the South. Afterward, we are mesmerized by Stan Street’s inhales and exhales combined with melodic mouth movement; I never knew the harmonica could be sexy! And by noon we have a corps of Mississippi friends with whom we exchange stories, drink Southern Pecan beer, listen to passionate blues tunes and watch monkeys riding dogs while herding sheep. (Real monkeys, real dogs, real sheep…. Seriously.)

In small-town Mississippi, visitors are old friends they’ve never met welcomed by a wave on the highway, a bed to sleep in or life stories.
I’ll miss you, Mississippi.