A Week of Loss

Earlier this week my mother-in-law, Saint Helen, called to let us know that her beloved brother-in-law, our Uncle Junior, had passed away. Junior was one of the best men I ever met. He always had a smile and a story to tell. Every Sunday he’d call Saint Helen and they’d share their week’s adventures. Even in his last years Junior would be out on his large property in Oklahoma tending to chores that would be daunting to much younger men. He was quite a man.

I also lost a friend I met in a Facebook group of political progressives, and while we never met face to face, Thom’s death hit me hard. He was a retired Methodist minister who lived a life of service to others. His heart was huge and his sense of humor kept us all on our toes. He shared his beautifully written prayers with us along with his calming and deep wisdom. Even in his last days he was posting puns on Facebook to cheer us up. The world has lost a great man.

Then just this morning I learned that a friend from my hometown was hit by a car and killed. I hadn’t seen Roy in years, but he was like a big brother to me when I was in high school. He had a big personality and an even bigger heart. I’m so sad for his family and for all who knew him. Another good guy gone.

Life is short. Hug your loved ones, cherish your friends.

Peace, people.

How Saving My Brother Resulted in My Burps Smelling Like Peppermint

My brothers and I were free range children, left to our own devices in the town of Floydada, Texas, over the three long months of every summer. As the oldest, I was placed in an undeserved position of authority while both of our parents worked full time jobs. I’m still amazed that brothers K and B will still talk to me after the horrible and random punishments I inflicted on them.

In my more self-forgiving moments I imagine that my poor efforts at babysitting equipped them both with survival tools far beyond what two small town boys might’ve gained otherwise. I mean, we had no cougars or grizzly bears to challenge their respective skill sets back in the 60’s. I was the next best thing.

I did teach them how to escape the lava that unexpectedly bubbled up in the living room from time to time. By carefully leaping from couch to chair to chair and back again we could keep our feet from becoming molten stubs. It was imaginary lava, but still. And I taught them how to scavenge for loose change in between the couch cushions and inside dresser drawers so we could walk to the drugstore downtown and each have a “baby” Coke on a scorching hot afternoon, so I wasn’t all bad.

Over the years both brothers have forgiven me for my cruelties, or at least they don’t mention them every time we’re together anymore. Instead we have edifying conversations. Just a week ago brother K and I were discussing our respective irritable bowel syndrome issues. He recommended a product called “Heather’s Tummy Tamers” with the caveat that they’ll make my burps smell like peppermint.

I ordered a bottle and indeed, my belches, along with other expressions of gas and bodily emissions, now have the distinct odor of peppermint. But they work beautifully on alleviating gas and acid reflux. I’m so glad I never actually tossed him into the lava.

Peace, people.

Random Photos from Austin, Texas, plus Bonus Footage of Me on Drums

On my recent trip to Austin, Texas, I took a good many photos. Surely some of them are worth sharing.

These photos below are of random works of art I saw on the Austin Tour of Weird Homes:

The one above was part of the black light decor in a bathroom!

One home had two rooms dedicated to various images of Marilyn Monroe.

We stopped for lunch at Lucy’s where darned near everything is deep fried and delicious, even the deviled eggs!

I did find a sandwich that wasn’t fried:

Oh, except for the fried chicken in the chicken salad sandwich.

Sister-in-law, Angie, struck a pose at Lucy’s.

We also strolled around the expansive grounds of The Great Outdoors nursery.

But best of all, I got to play drums at the house we rented!

Autographs, anyone? By the way I’m well aware I am holding the sticks incorrectly. Don’t be haters.

Peace, people!

A Snore Thang

I flew home from Austin yesterday. My original flight, scheduled to leave the Texas capital at noon was cancelled, and I ended up on an earlier flight. My 5 a.m. alarm came much too early, especially since I hadn’t slept much anyway.

Not long into the first brief leg of my flight from Austin to Houston I must’ve dozed off, something I’m rarely able to do on a plane. Unfortunately some pesky person near me jarred me awake with their snoring. The same thing happened on the flight from Houston to Dallas. Just my luck to get stuck by two snorers the one time I’m able to catch a few much needed zzzz’s.

It wasn’t until the third leg of the trip from Dallas to Panama City Beach, when once again my sleep was interrupted by snoring, that I realized the culprit was me. I guess the drool on my chin was the giveaway.

At least my seat mates were different on all three flights so my embarrassment was diffused. I do so hope my snores were ladylike.

Peace, people.

Austin’s Weird Tour of Homes

Saturday in Austin was spent touring weird homes around the city. In a town known for being weird, it takes a special kind of home to qualify for this tour.

I’m not even going to try to explain what we saw on the tour, but here are a few photos I thought it would be fun to share with my readers.

Pictured above are the weirdest people in Austin this weekend. From left, my sisters-in-law Lyn and Angie, friend Mauri, niece Christie, and yours truly. We’re not nearly as innocent as we look.

Too much happened today and I’m too tired to post much, but suffice it to say I had way more fun than is probably legal in the state of Texas.

Goodnight and peace, people!

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Lately it seems as though all I’ve done is travel with brief periods of rest at Doright Manor between trips. On Friday I flew on Southwest Airlines from Panama City Beach, FL, with a brief layover in Houston before reaching my final destination in Austin. I’m meeting up with two of Studly’s sisters and my niece for a girls’ weekend. It promises to be way more fun than I’m accustomed to. But first I had to survive my flight!

The first leg of the flight was routine. The pilot found a smooth route and we cruised without incident to Houston Hobby Airport. The flight, though, from Houston to Austin was a bit of a nail biter.

We hit turbulence upon takeoff and it was constant the entire flight. Thank goodness the ordeal only lasted 32 minutes. But the flight attendants were never instructed to take a seat and they served passengers as the plane bucked like an untamed bronco until the very last seconds. I was reading and in the back of my mind wondering when the attendants would announce that our tray tables and seatbelts needed to be secured and our seats in the upright and locked position.

The message to secure the cabin never came, though, and the plane landed jarringly, resulting in cups and cans from the back of the plane becoming airborne. I’ve flown thousands of miles and never experienced anything quite like this landing. The flight attendants were visibly shaken, but there was never a word from the cockpit. Weirdest landing I’ve ever encountered.

But I’m here! Our niece, CB picked me up at the airport and then we rendezvoused with her mom (Studly’s eldest sibling) and her aunt (Studly’s middle sister) at CB’s home in Buda, Texas outside of Austin.

So far I’ve had terrific Mexican food at Garcia’s, a family owned restaurant in Buda, played a fun strategy game called Ticket to Ride, at which I thoroughly sucked, enjoyed some good red wine, and laughed so hard I cried. CB’s family joined us for the fun and games last night adding to the hilarity.

I never could remember which color my train was!

{In Ticket to Ride (above) I never could remember which color our train was! I thought we were blue, but midway through my sister-in-law informed me we were red. Needless to say, we didn’t win.}

We’re staying in a lovely “vacation rental by owner” place, with plenty of room to spread out, and today (Saturday) we’re going on a tour of weird homes in Austin. I have no idea what we’ll see, but it should be a hoot. Austin is famous for its weirdness.

On Sunday we’re seeing a production of The Book of Mormon, and I’ll fly home on Monday. Unless, that is, I get a look at my pilot and recognize him from the flight on Friday. I might be looking for the nearest Greyhound bus station if that’s the case.

Peace, people.

Huey Lewis, I’d be a Fool for You (Again)

I once spent about half a minute conversing with myself in a mirror. Yes, I was rather inebriated, and yes, it was quite late, but I suppose neither of those are good excuses.

Studly Doright had taken me to see Huey Lewis and the News in concert at the Amarillo Civic Center. At that time in our lives we weren’t able to go out often. We had two small children and almost no disposable income, but we’d scrimped and saved enough for the concert because Studly knew that I needed to see Huey in person.

After the concert we met friends at a club in Amarillo where I had a drink, maybe two. In those days, I was literally and figuratively a lightweight when it came to drinking and it didn’t take much to get my skinny self drunk.

The DJ, ensconced in his booth high above the crowd, wasn’t playing anything I liked, so I wrote a request for a Huey Lewis song on a slip of paper and then navigated around and through an energetic knot of dancers on the floor to offer up my request. But I couldn’t figure out how to deliver my piece of paper to the guy in the booth.

Looking around I spied a friendly, albeit concerned looking woman and asked, “Where do I put this?” indicating my request.

Oddly enough, she asked me something at the same time, and when I bent forward to try to hear her better I bonked my forehead on a mirror and only then realized I’d been talking to myself. I compounded my error by apologizing.

“Ha! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were me!”

“No problem,” I replied, giggling.

Of course a couple dancing by caught the gist of this whole exchange and gave me a wide berth as they navigated around the dance floor. I can’t say that I blame them. I finally located the proper request slot and enjoyed the rest of my evening, basking in the memory of Huey.

Huey Lewis is still one of my favorites, and I’ve gotten to see him and the News in concert a few times through the years. Huey has recently contracted an illness that’s caused partial deafness and resulted in a cancellation of his tour for the foreseeable future. For a musician this has to be devastating. I’d go talk to myself in a mirror again in front of a crowded dance floor if I thought it would help. Maybe he just needs a new drug.

https://youtu.be/N6uEMOeDZsA

Peace, people.

Oddities and Noteworthy Sights Along the Way

Now that I’ve returned safely home to Doright Manor after my trip to San Marcos, Texas, I’ve had a bit of time to look back at some of the cool stuff I found along the way.

For instance this drive through daiquiri store in Louisiana, just across Texas border. Isn’t it illegal to drink and drive?

And how about the Wooly Mamoth (sic) head mounted on the wall of a barbecue place in Katy, Texas? I’m fairly sure the disclaimer “REPLICA” wasn’t necessary, but it made my daughter and me giggle. The misspelling of mammoth was a bonus.

Notice the sign on I-10 just west of Mobile, AL. I almost cried because I thought it read “ROAD WORK NEXT 568 MILES.” Thank goodness the decimal point between the 5 and the 6 was just difficult to see.

Technically, the Alamo isn’t an oddity, but it’s worth a mention.

On my way to San Antonio, I spent the night in a Holiday Inn in Gulfport, Mississippi. I’d stayed there before and had fond memories of the place. The staff is friendly and the rooms comfy. This time I snapped a photo of the nifty artwork in my room. I love retro pieces and thought this was a nice change from the artwork one usually finds in hotels.

A red door on a shop in Wimberley, Texas. I like red doors. Once I heard that if you want your house to sell quickly, paint your door red. Works for me.

San Antonio has some nifty stuff to see besides the Alamo.

I feel so fortunate to be able to travel and share my adventures with you all. Hopefully I still have a couple of decades ahead to enjoy adventures like this one. It’ll break my heart when I can no longer take my car on long trips.

Peace, people.

Old and Lost River

Driving on I-10 between Baytown and Houston one crosses a bridge over the “Old and Lost River.” Each time I’ve made the journey the river’s name has caused me to smile and then to wonder how it came to be called “Old and Lost,” but I could never remember to google it. Today, though, when I crossed the river I left myself a reminder note on my iPhone via Siri.

Here’s what I found on Google:

“American composer Tobias Picker (b. 1954) wrote Old and Lost Rivers in 1986. The brief, colorful orchestral tone poem was commissioned by the Houston Symphony to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Texas. Picker describes the inspiration for the piece:”

Driving east from Houston along Interstate 10, you will come to a high bridge which crosses many winding bayous. These bayous were left behind by the great wanderings, over time, of the Trinity River across the land. When it rains, the bayous fill with water and begin to flow. At other times — when it is dry — they evaporate and turn green in the sun. The two main bayous are called ‘Old River’ and ‘Lost River’. Where they converge, a sign on the side of the highway reads: ‘OId and Lost Rivers.’

And now I know the story. The google piece also included the audio of the composition written by Mr. Picker and performed by the Houston Symphony Orchestra. I think it’s lovely.

https://youtu.be/S6phXZddj9A

Peace, people.

Final Final Four Post

And then there were two: Michigan and Villanova. At the end of the day, only one team would prevail as the NCAA men’s basketball champions.

Ashley and I had tickets to the final game. If the Jayhawks had still been in the tourney, we’d have gladly driven back into crazy San Antonio traffic, paid a fortune for parking, and a fair amount to Uber to and from the event. Alas, the Jayhawks were eliminated on Saturday, so we elected to watch the game from our hotel room in San Marcos. Call us wusses. We can handle it.

We weighed a great many factors in making our decision besides those listed above. I still struggle to speak and even though I feel okay, it’s wearing me out. Ashley has a flight to catch and a long drive to her home in Illinois once she lands in Des Moines, Iowa. I have a thirteen hour drive ahead of me. Still, we both agonized about not seeing the biggest game of the year in men’s college basketball.

So we spent the evening watching the game in our pajamas while we tried to cram all of our purchases into our suitcases along with the stuff we brought with us. I really don’t care who wins. Right now Villanova has a hefty lead with 11 minutes to go.

Coolest things this weekend:

Just being there! We’ve watched the pageantry of this tournament for years on our respective televisions, but there is nothing like seeing it all in person.

Ashley ran into a Chicago baseball icon, Ronnie Woo Woo in the Alamodome and posed for a photo with him.

We were live on a CBS television broadcast when we stumbled into view behind the broadcasters’ table. We looked like happy dorks. I suppose that’s what we are.

We enjoyed exploring San Antonio, strolling along the River Walk, and mingling with fans from all over the country.

On Sunday night we enjoyed live music and the enthusiasm of young Michigan fans in a San Antonio pub. Oh, and it warmed my heart that these young people knew the lyrics to all of my generation’s favorite songs!

On Monday, Ashley and I explored the little town of Wimberley. We did a bit of shopping and had a great lunch at Ino’Z on the banks of Cypress Creek.

I’ve most likely mixed up my verb tenses in this post once again, but we’ve had, and are still having, a wonderful time.

Tuesday is all about travel. I’ll deliver Ashley to the airport in Houston, about three hours from San Marcos, before heading east on I-10. My goal is to get as far down the road as possible before stopping for the night.

Send us some good travel vibes if you are so inclined. And as always, peace, people.