Driving Confidence

 

Last week I went on a trip by myself. I turned 50 this year and there were no giant celebrations. I had grand visions of throwing myself a huge party but I just didn’t do it. But then I saw that the Counting Crows were touring this summer. And I thought that I would get myself a ticket. I tried to see if the dates coincided with the time I would be in NY but that was not to be. Then I decided that I would buy a ticket to see them someplace that I had never been before. And that I would buy a ridiculously expensive ticket that had me sitting really close and get me into a meet and greet with the band prior to the show. This all made sense to me. And then I bought the ticket. And it was in Texas, Irving to be exact. I bought the ticket around my birthday in April. I told next to no one that I had done this. Because I was not sure that I was going to go.

I could not remember the last time that I traveled anywhere alone (if ever). And I was afraid. I was uncertain if I could do it. Go to a place that I’ve never been to. By myself. So I did not tell. I did not tell because I was unsure. But life has a way of reminding you that there are so many more scary things than taking a plane alone and driving in super giant states. So the month before, I decided that I would actually go. Then I told. I told my family. They were a little irked but were able to roll with it.

I almost did not rent a car in Texas. That would have been a mistake. I put Waze on my phone after Google Maps took me to a road that was closed. And aside from that little snafu, I managed to always get to where I was going. I managed to not get lost. When I got back and people asked me what the best part of the trip was, I said that it was not getting lost. It was kind of a huge confidence boost for me.

One of my co-workers and a friend said things to me like, they did not think that they could travel solo like I had. I told them both that I did not think that I could do it either. But then I did. And it was good for me. It reminded me that I am able to do things on my own. That although the world is a scary place, I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want the what-ifs to dictate my life and choices.

The other great thing about this trip is that it shattered any and all preconceived red state Texas notions that I had. No, I did not get into a discussion about politics with anyone. But Texas did not come close to living up to my high level stereotypes. This makes me as bad as the guy in the south who is brushing all the folks on the east coast with a broad blue brush. I think that maybe if more people were less afraid, less afraid to get out of their comfort zones and travel a bit, we really would see that there are more similarities than differences. And learn that there are places where everyone will call you ma’am but not because you are of a certain age but because it is polite. And I think that it’s a good thing that I know that.

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Round Here

When I was in college, I loved the Counting Crows. I remember seeing the video for Round Here and just, well, just, I don’t know. I described how I felt about the band to the trio of my new TX friends, R., B. and S., as being the soundtrack to my formative years. And that is true. Adam Duritz’s voice elicits something inside of me. Of course, yes, I have a crush on him. I know what you are thinking, seriously? that hair? but it is his lyrics mostly, not the way he looks. And I know that for these public people, we make up their story. The story that most appeals to us. And perhaps that is true here but song lyrics are like poetry and can be just as soul baring as far as I’m concerned.

When I found out that the band was touring over the summer (and not coming to Hawaii, of course), I decided to go and see them. I decided to go and see them in a big way as a present to myself for my big birthday. I had not seen them since I’ve lived in HI, and that is more than 13 years. The NY tour dates did not coincide with the time that I would be there. It was then I decided to go see them someplace that I have never been. I tried for the west coast but the timing did not work. But there it was, the last tour date, outside of Dallas, Texas. And I took the plunge. I bought the ticket. And not just any ticket but a VIP ticket. It cost so much money that I really don’t want to talk about it. But I decided that if I was going to fly all the way to somewhere, I was going to make it worth my while. The package that I got included a bunch of schwag, to be able to sit through part of the sound check, a “meet and greet” with the band and a front row seat.

And tonight was the show. Since all of Texas is under construction, I had a hard time finding this place despite the fact that it was literally five minutes from the hotel. I can’t lie. I seriously felt like I might throw up before the meet and greet. I can tell you when I got close enough to see the band the guy having his picture taken was trying to get them to do a shaka with him (they did not – like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders). He was there with his wife. When he came by the table to pick up his things, I asked if they were from Hawaii. And, of course they were. It turns out they are from the Big Island, in the military and had driven up from San Antonio. We chatted off and on when we saw each other. Island connections. Always turn up.

Then after my photo, when my heart was still pounding in my chest (I stood next to and spoke to Adam Duritz – there will be evidence shortly – no cell phone photos allowed), S. approached me with a handful of food and started chatting with me. And there I was then, setting up shop with him and his newly made buddies, R. and B. B. has purple hair and is a psychologist (I think I’ve got that right) R. has dimples and sells cookware. And we chatted like we had known each other forever. It was nice to chat with people. I haven’t done much of that over the past few days since I am traveling alone. It was nice. Nice to connect with real people that live in Texas. Once again, busting my Pee-Wee Herman Texas stereotype. In a really good way.

Matchbox Twenty was supposed to play first but Adam Duritz was not feeling great (he told me during the pictures and he mentioned trying to not throw up on stage) so the Counting Crows played first. Much to my surprise and delight. And there I was. Right there. Right in the front. It was kind of crazy. And magical and they opened with Round Here. It was not my first “meant to be” moment here in TX. There was the pastor of the Episcopal Church I visited this morning who asked if we had met before and told me that her husband was vacationing in HI. She was not the only person to say that I reminded them of someone.

And the set by the band was great and I totally dug out when they were pau. I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to stay to watch Matchbox Twenty (I know, they would have been great). I had been at venue since 3:00 and once they scanned our tickets we really couldn’t leave despite the fact that the VIP doings were over by like five. Plus, and I know that this makes me sound like an old fart, but I didn’t want to get stuck in all the post-concert traffic especially since I had almost gotten lost with no traffic while I was coming. I ran into S. as I was making my great escape but failed to see R. and B. (insert sad emoji here – but if you are reading, see message below). So I left and on the way out chatted with a security guard, a police officer and a parking attendant. And I got in my rental and got back to the hotel with no problem. In fact, I am becoming familiar with the area around my hotel. And tonight was a complete success. It was over the top. Just like I have come to expect from Texas, in a really good way.

Message to all three concert folk – if you’d like, provide me contact information through the comments section of the blog I don’t think that it will post automatically if you are a new user (I have to approve the comment). But, don’t put anything dreadfully sensitive, just in case (insert happy emoji here).

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Texas

I am in Texas. I did not know what to expect. I am staying in a town called Irving which is about 20 minutes from the Dallas Love Field airport that I flew into. When I was planning my trip, I almost did not rent a car. That would have been a dreadful mistake. The teeny part of Texas that I am in seems huge. The roads are giant and there are a lot of them, think of the H-1 but on steroids. And I swear I saw a speed limit 75 sign today. 75! I am lucky if I am doing 60. Especially since I am trying really hard to not get lost.

Back when I was younger and we used to drive places, like Great Adventure in New Jersey, we would get lost. Soul crunchingly lost. And my boyfriend at the time would be the driver. I was supposed to be the navigator. And the person who kept him awake while everyone else slept. I took the job very seriously. And we were often lost. Driving late at night somewhere near NYC or in the bowels of Jersey. It made me hate getting lost. And I still feel like that. It was the thing I was afraid of most coming to Texas. Driving around. But, after ditching google maps for waze, things have been going all right. I don’t want to jinx myself but whenever I hear that waze voice telling me that I have arrived at my destination I feel a tinge of pride with myself.

But I digress. Today I toured Dallas Stadium. I didn’t know what to expect. I loved it. I loved being in Mr. Jones’ box (called “the perch” by our tour guide – and it has its own private elevator). I loved the giant monitor over the field. I loved that they sell cheap standing tickets to the games (there are bar-like tables that are behind the last seats in the sections). And I totally had my picture taken with Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders on the field (they told me that they were not allowed to do a shaka, which was sad but not surprising).

Then I drove to the Dallas Museum of Art where the admission is free but the parking is $12. It is a lovely building and they had an exhibit on the “art of the cocktail” an exhibit made for me (or maybe my friend Joe). I took my waitress’ advice (see previous blog post) and visited the food trucks at the park across the street from the museum. I ended up getting French toast and brown butter gelato. It was quite yummy.

The only bad thing about Texas, the need for driving and the possibility of getting lost, it has completely curtailed my drinking. It seems like a bad idea. So I decided to grab food from chipotle (next to the hotel and we don’t have that in Hawaii) and have a glass of wine at the hotel bar. That was great. I hope that we get chipotle in Hawaii because it was really good.

With the evening before me I decided to go to the local arts center. The town that I am staying in, Irving, seems pretty up and coming to me. There is a bunch of construction and some lovely town homes around a lake. Although I have yet to see a grocery store. There was a dance performance and a play at the arts center tonight. I decided to go to the dance performance. The company was small, six dancers. And the first part of the show featured them dancing together and in pairs. But, the reason, I think that most of the people were in the audience, was the grand finale. When I bought my ticket to the performance at the box office ten minutes before it was to start, the woman told me that there were dogs and a longhorn cattle in the show. I seriously thought that I had misheard her.

The finale featured a cast of local Irving residents. Big and small. Of all shapes, sizes and ages. And they danced about their love of Texas. There was a part where state flags were taken out and numerous individuals ran across the stage with them. There was a part where a smoking barbeque was walked across the stage. And then, a Texas longhorn was brought out. It was tremendous. The biggest animal I have ever seen outside of a zoo. And then all of the dancers, local and the company were on the stage in a haze of red, white and blue dancing to Michael Jackson. And the whole thing, while veering really close to being over the top, never felt that way. It felt right. It felt right for Texas. And I was so glad that I had decided to go. Because when you are in Texas, you go big, or go home. I am embracing Texas in all its bigness.

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Sisters

Last night I got on a red eye to Los Angeles. After lurking around the terminal there for about three hours, I got on another plane for Dallas, as in Texas. And then I was picking up a car and driving to a hotel. By the time I figured out where I was going to be able to stop moving for a while, I was really happy. It was only about 3:00 p.m. but I had a hard time even remembering what day it was and the last meal I ate. I was going to take a shower and go to this farm to table restaurant that I had found online but then I was afraid that if I did that, I would actually not leave the hotel room. That seemed like a bad idea.

The place was really easy to find, across the highway heading back towards Dallas on the opposite side. And I was glad that I went. It is kind of cavernous and it was mostly empty. I was there at an off time. Part of me thought that I might sit at the bar but woman alone at a bar seemed to not be how I wanted to end my day of travel. I asked the hostess, who looked Filipino to me, if I could sit at a table in a corner somewhere. She asked if I wanted a high top or a booth. I told her about sitting at the bar and she just understood. She said that sometimes she brings something else to deflect them if she is alone. I so appreciated that she wasn’t like, ma’am you are way too old to have someone hitting on you. I told her that I had brought a book. She gave me this giant booth in a corner where I could see almost the entire place. It was great. I thanked her for giving me a place to sit where I could see anyone coming.

 

I don’t know what I was expecting of Texas and the people that live here but it is wildly opposite of everything that I thought. I think that I got my view of Texas from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure when he is at a rodeo sings, “the stars at night are big and bright” and everyone around him (decked out in cowboy boots, flannel and cowboy hats, replies “deep in the heart of Texas”. I can tell you right now that it is not like that. Yes, there have been cowboy boots (my waitress for example) and I saw one cowboy hat but that was in the L.A. airport and I don’t think that he was on my flight. There has also been a significant lack of southern drawl as well. But I digress. Perhaps as I get out further from the small circle of my hotel and the airport tomorrow, I will have more to report back. It makes me think that there are more things that unite us in this country but we all carry our stereotypes and, well, maybe they deserve some rethinking. Granted, I have not gotten into a political discussion and it was unlikely that I was going to wear my “I like Obamacare” shirt here but I’m not even talking about that kind of disagreement but more on a superficial level.

Then there was my waitress. She was super chatty and awesome and helped me pick out some tasty beer from their all TX beer menu for my flight. I ordered the fried green tomatoes because I kind of felt like I had to. She recommended the blackened snapper tacos which came with a salad since I had been eyeing them. It is not something that I would have chosen. She told me that she had them for lunch. She told me that she was from NY and that she has taken trips to see concerts in the past. This was after I told her that it was my first day in TX. She told me she was thinking about moving back to NY. I understood. She treated me really well and gave me some tips on where to eat after I make my way to the Dallas Art Museum tomorrow afternoon.

And these encounters, with these women, who were easily young enough to be my daughters, just made me feel like part of the female tribe. To have these kinds of conversations and to be able to connect because we are female and in the same boat was kind of awesome. Age didn’t matter and I liked it. Deep in the heart of Texas.

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Write

I have wanted to take writing on the road for a while since I really only do it on my laptop. And when I thought about having to carry it around, the laptop, it was not appealing. I did not have a bag for it. The track pad on this thing craps out daily (luckily it is a touch screen too). So many things that I didn’t like. I decided to see what folks online thought about how to take your writing on the road. Was there a great device that I could use for this purpose? The consensus was that paper was the best. You could lug it around anywhere. No electricity needed. I was not feeling it.

 Despite this, we went out to Fisher (the best office supply place in my book) to see if I could find something that would match the thing that I thought I wanted to write in. We walked all over. After going through the entire store (more or less) I came upon these giant hard bound calendar books. They were in varying sizes. I wanted the largest one. These were the 2018 year versions and they were on sale for 40% off. The largest one was really large, like 14 inches long and each page is a day. That means that there are lots of lines. Lots and lots of lines for my messy writing (but not serial killer writing which is totally a thing that my co-worker self-admittedly has). The problem was that this sized one was marked $84. I kid you not. Who pays that?

 I thought that despite the deep discount that it would still be too much for me. Then I wondered if maybe they had 2017 versions lying about. I asked. I was directed to an aisle. And there they were. Exactly the same except for this year. And still marked $84. I had a small glimmer of hope that maybe it would be cheaper. I took it to the counter and it turned out to be $8. Sold! I brought home this giant bulky book. The same weekend I re-upped my membership at the Honolulu Museum of Art (formerly and still called the Academy). I really wanted somewhere quiet. Outside and inspirational to write. The Academy has proven to fit the bill. There is a small courtyard with a fountain. It has lovely tiled walls. A tree full of birds. And if there are other people visiting, I generally can’t hear them over the gurgling of the fountain. I like to be there right before they close at five. There is no one there. The birds start to come down out of the tree to bathe in the narrow runway of water that flows from one fountain to the next. One part of the fountain shuts off at 4:00 and the courtyard gets decidedly quieter. Maybe that is why the birds don’t come till then to bathe.

 At first I was unsure of this purchase. This giant red book. With days and days that have mostly passed in it. There is something appealing to me about that. Once, at an airport, I bought an address book and used that to write in. Selecting randomly tabbed letters where people’s contact information should go. Random writing. That is what this calendar book reminds me of.

 When I took it to the Academy the first time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It felt awkward in my hands. I was not sure where I wanted to sit. It felt really big and really red. I wandered about. I looked at stuff. And then I ended up in the courtyard and that is where I still go.

 At first the writing came slowly. I really want to write a bunch of short stories. I have ideas. But I always seem to fail in the execution. And I really, really hate writing dialogue. But I kept at it. And the book is not just for writing. There are bits of its travels. A small flower found on my car when I went to leave the museum. Parts from the Evensong program from church. Information on the band playing at Family Sunday (Jamarek – check them out). The sticker that they give you when you enter the museum.

 And I have been writing this story. And it is not fast. And I do not write tons. But it is coming along. And the book. It calls me. I can hear it now. Because I know what to write next. And it is in my head and it needs to get out. And that is what I like about how I am writing now. It is always there. Looping around my brain like wisps of smoke. Like an addiction. That is when I know it is good. It is right. What I am doing. And the process. I can feel it inside of me. So maybe it is not the book. It is the story. And I love it.

 

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No Instruction Manual

My significant other picked up our son from school today. A lot had gone one there. There was a hike at the Nature Center close to our place. There was the threat of being told by someone in his class something that would “break his heart.” And there were drama auditions, for Cinderella. So when my family arrived at home today, my son was teary eyed and my significant other was irritated. I tried to talk to my son but he did not want to discuss anything. He just kept telling me that he didn’t want to talk about it and that it was nothing. I knew that was not the case.

I peppered him with questions. Was it the hike? Was it drama? Was it the big reveal that his classmate had threatened? There was no response except for a teary eyed head shake. My significant other, by the time they arrived at home, was just aggravated with the entire situation. I found this to be an objectionable reaction. To get angry in the face of non-communication. I told him that we are headed into the unchartered waters of the teenager years and that this could end up being par for the course, as it were. Significant other disagreed. I disagreed with his disagreement. Did we fight? Not really. But came as close as we usually do. Neither of us like it. The fighting. 

We had gone out to get Taco Bell (because today is Taco Bell Thursday) and when we got back, I talked to my son again. He admitted to me that his audition did not go well. His song was off. He was very nervous. It turns out that only two of the boys who auditioned were even called back. Two, because that is the number of lead male roles that there are. The drama production this year is Cinderella so you can understand the dearth of male roles. The Prince. My son, well, he has not yet hit puberty and he is not the tallest of the bunch. When I think of the girls who could be Cinderella, I am not sure that he matches their height, any of them. This could be problematic. For the Prince role. And, that may have played into it. 

And all of this aside, I wonder how we will deal with the potential non-communicativeness of a sullen teen. When we both, seem to be lacking the tools, or maybe even the toolbox. Today, we were able to get to a place where he did tell us and did talk to us. Patience, and cajoling and more patience. I am hopeful that through that abundance of patience that maybe, we have the plans to create the toolbox. I am not sure how soon we will need it. Need it to be big and sturdy and strong. And full of the right things. The right things to say and do. I worry that, without the instruction manual, we are flying blindly. Doing what feels right based on what we know. Which is sometimes so much less than we would like.

 

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Strangers?

Today I did the usual Sunday stuff which included shopping at Safeway. I wish that I could do all of my shopping at Costco but it is just not possible. So there I was. I went later than I wanted because my son kept telling me that he would wrap up his Overwatch game and he kept not doing it. Until finally, I just left the house and called him from the car to tell him that I was leaving.

The SB line at Safeway was ridiculous because only one person was working. I wonder if it some kind of torture test Starbucks has for its grocery store based employees or if people call in sick. Either way, it really sucks. I know, first world problem. But it is ridiculous.

I was just about done shopping but decided to see about picking up laundry detergent. I feel like I am always on the fence about laundry detergent. Especially when we lived where there was a communal washer. I read somewhere about residual soap being enough to clean clothes but maybe I just used that as an excuse to not buy detergent. Anyway, when I got to the aisle there was an older woman whose cart was blocking my entrance. My first thought was one of irritation. I would normally wait to be acknowledged and have the person just move but today, I put on my nice tone of voice and asked if she could move her cart. She apologized profusely and did so. She had been at the end of the aisle looking at this giant display of what I would call, designer marshmallows. And I was intrigued. She was older than me. White hair. Small accent. I asked her about them. She said that she had seen them in the local paper and that they were on sale. She proceeded to take out the article from the paper that she had with her to show me. The marshmallows were beautiful. Square. In ridiculous flavors like mint chocolate chip and pineapple coconut. And yes, I ended up buying a bag. Then she asked me if I liked bread. I told her yes, and she told me to try the bread that they bake at Safeway, the sunflower seed bread, maybe with honey? She told me that she had called because the last time they didn’t have it. I told her that I would check it out. And then I told her to have a good weekend.

And then I realized how different the shopping experience was for me, just because I had spoken to this woman. And connected with her for the teeniest of moments. Over overpriced and silly flavored marshmallows. I don’t know her. I don’t know her beliefs. Maybe we could not be friends. But that moment. During that small moment we connected. And maybe we just need more small moments. Because the small moments teach us that despite everything, maybe we have more in common than not. And that can’t be a bad thing.

 

 

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