Monday, December 31, 2007

Shall Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

New Years Eve is a celebration of “out with the old, in with the new!” At midnight the day, the month, and the year flip over to the next notch. In one discrete and infinitesimally small point in time, 2007 will be over and a new year will begin. But that’s just how we measure time. Time itself and how we live through it is a continuum that we simply tick off as it flows by, and one moment, in general, is very much like the one right after it, barring cataclysmic shocks of any sort.

People are also analog. I can make a decision at one point in time, but it’s not so much a particle as the peak of a wave, with a build up of thought and feeling and sensing and observing all going into informing the decision I’m about to make, then all the work I have to do to put that decision into action and achieve an actual change.

Psychologically, the end of the year seems like a perfect time to say good bye to the bad habits of mind or body that have kept me from progressing and growing this year. And I do feel like I’ve been kept from growing in many ways. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve done a lot, but I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything. I’m still in very much the same place I was at the beginning of the year, if not even farther behind. And I didn’t want to be there this long.

Blogs are a wonderful thing. I just looked back to see if there were any New Year’s Resolutions I’d made, and maybe forgotten. I don’t see any. But I see a sort of optimism about this year in some of my posts and I just don’t feel like 2007 was what I hoped it would be, and maybe it’s being sick right now, but I don’t feel great about next year. I’ve got such a long way to go, and I don’t feel like I got anywhere this year.

I’m doing a few little things that may seem silly. I washed all the dishes left in my sink and have started the dishwasher. I’ve done a lot of laundry lately. So I’ll start the New Year with lots of clean clothes and dishes. There are other things I need to do for spring-cleaning, but those will have to wait until I purchase some organizing equipment. I’m taking Kevin’s suggestion, to, and I plan to burn some candles and watch this year melt away.

More profoundly, I’ve made some decisions, and I’m hoping that the time that has passed this year, while it hasn’t propelled me onward and upward, has been the slow building of a wave in which I’ve finally come to the point that these decisions are ready to be made, and that this next year will be a year of hard work to carry them out.

It’s a process, a continuum of constant assessment and growing conviction and steady effort. It’s analog. And it’s hard. I have a lot of bad habits, and I’m not going to get rid of them all at once, all in one moment. I’ve picked a few very personal hang-ups to try to overcome. I wish it were as simple as turning the page of the calendar. I wish that the old ways that I’m so well acquainted with were that easy to leave behind. That the past could be completely separated from the future at that tiny point in time, instead of always being connected to it and coloring it.

This New Year’s Eve, my hopes for the next few weeks, even months, are pretty modest. I already see ways in which the things I wanted to leave behind back in this year are going to bleed over into the next. Hopefully, though, I’ll get past that quickly. My real hope is that some New Year’s Eve years from now, this will seem far away and time long since gone by. That I’ll be so far away that I’ll have to work to remember the things holding me back, instead of having to work so hard to get away.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Christmas Vacation 2007

Was just drifting awake on the morning of Thursday, December 20 when my cell phone rang. It was Kid wishing me happy birthday.

"Are you at work?"

"No, I took the day off."

"Oh no! I woke you up, didn't I?"

She hadn't, really, and it was time to get going. Two hours of tossing stuff into bags and checking stuff off of impromptu packing lists, and I was on the road. Was eating lunch at Frank's in Schulenburg when Uncle John called to wish me happy birthday.

Got to Biscuit Hill Bed and Breakfast a little after 3pm. Was greeted by Deana, who runs the place. She showed me around, we settled my bill in advance, and she said I'd have the house to myself until the other couple got in the next day, and breakfast would be at 9:30. Seemed silly for her to expect me for breakfast, since I'd much rather sleep in at least the first day, and when I said this she said that was fine! And she sent me up to my room with these amazing cinnamon crumb muffins and apple juice. I ran out that night for crackers, cream cheese, salami, and wine for my dinner. I took a walk down the creek bed under the wary gaze of the four whitetail does had come up for the corn that I'd tossed out for them. The rest of the evening I spent curled up in my room or soaking in the huge jacuzzi tub, eating my crackers and cheese and such and reading. And reading. And reading.

The next day I went driving around the hills. I drove by my old home, but everything was changed. The trees had grown up and blocked the views I remember, and it didn't feel like home any more. But I saw Mrs. Schultze in her driveway as I drove by, so I pulled in and talked with her for a while, and it was great to see her.

Drove back up by the lake and stopped to take some pictures, then came back to the B&B. Was once again a lazy bum with a stack of good books. The next day I did go down for breakfast, chatted with Josh and Marlena from Katy, checked with Deana that I was good to leave when I was packed, then headed out just before 11am.

Got to Mom's and we finished cleaning and setting up the Christmas decor. That night we had Kid's boyfriend and his parents and younger sister over to join Mom and Kid and Grandma and me for dinner in honor of my birthday. It was fun. The next day Kid's boyfriend installed a new back door with a little doggie door for Abby, and I wrapped presents. Yes it took me most of the day to do that. We had the food network on, too, and then after dinner we opened Christmas presents by the tree. I don't know what's going to run out first... red kitchen gadgetry for Mom to buy me, or kitchen for me to put red gadgetry in. :-P

Christmas Eve Grandma headed on to Kerrville and we headed to La Grange. I left first, but I took my time, and I stopped to visit Dad's grave. A lot has been going on, and I miss him, but crying with my cheek against his headstone for a while felt as close as I'm ever going to come again to crying in his arms. I got tears all over the stone, and felt the way I would if it had been his shirt I'd soaked. I wish I could tell him everything, just to hear him say how proud he still was of me, and that of course I've never disappointed him. It's what I know he'd say, deep down, but never hearing it leaves me still doubting sometimes.

Kid and her boyfriend beat me to Momo's, and Mom got there a little afterwards. That evening, like always, we went to the Christmas pageant mass. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for the kids to be the ones to celebrate the Word, but I think I need to find a new way to worship Christmas. It's too much spectacle. And choir is just horrible. No, really. And the congregation doesn't join in very loudly, even though everyone knows the words. So it just kind of hurts. I guess I shouldn't be such a snob; it's about worship, not performance. But kids reading through the scripture as fast as they can and a choir that never starts at the right time and parents snapping pictures... I needed something more this year. Something deeper. Oh well. I'm also going to start booking a hotel room. With all the kids and grandkids and spouses and great grandkids and significant owners, the house is getting kind of crowded. And kind of noisy.

We had Chinese Christmas that night like always. The Crown Royal was a popular item, and my cousin Shane and another cousin's boyfriend worked out a strategy where they both managed to get and freeze the two bottles up for grabs. It was highly amusing. And fairly brilliant. I'm ashamed to say the only miffed feelings this time were mine when Brooke stole the neat faux leather storage footstool I'd got, but most of that was for show. Still, Greg stole a tool set from Mom to freeze it for her, and then Mom stole the footstool back for me, and Brooke ended up with colored cordial glasses that she really likes, so it all turned out okay.

Anyway, today we had a big dinner, and I drove home, and so now I'm watching my new CSI Las Vegas videos. No more red wine in the apartment, though. I spilled my glass, which wouldn't be so bad, only then I mopped it up with a green wash cloth that bleeds. Red and green. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend in Nawlins

I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home. I have a LOT of time here, owing to the fact that I couldn't check out much later than 1pm, my flight isn't until 3:40pm, and there was no traffic on the way to the airport. So I'll take this time to recount my adventures.

December 15, 2007

I sleep in as late as I can. Why would you spend so much time sleeping when you're in NEW ORLEANS??? Because you need the sleep. Desperately.

Up and out and around the French Quarter before 1pm. Wonder where I can get a cheap lunch that isn't an absolute tourist hole. Wander up Royal Street. Wonder if I can find Croissant D'Or, a patisserie that Jonathan had recommended as we passed by on the Vampire Tour, and which I have a vague feeling is between Royal and the convent on Ursalines. Wander in that direction, resisting the temptation to look at my map. Find it right where instinct said it would be. I'm just that good. :-P

Eat a quiche Lorraine and a chocolate eclaire for lunch. I love this city. Read my book sitting at a counter in the window. Finish eating and meander down toward Jackson Square. Three weddings in the cathedral, so interior inspection has to wait until I attend mass on the morrow.

Wander down and across the windy streets to the riverfront. Sit in the sunshine as the barges slide by and read. Lock eyes with a young man walking slowly down the sidewalk, stopping now and then to gaze at the river. Watch him covertly over the pages of my book, turning my head to watch him watch the river, and every so often look my way. He knows I'm watching him and knows I know he's watching me as I sit still and he drifts past and we both gaze across to the other shore. It's a moment of human connection that dispenses with introductions and awkward courtesies, the connection of parallel sights and sounds, thoughts and feelings akin that would recognize each other at the first meeting. Then we turn away completely and I read.

And read.

And read.

Stop to watch the sunlight on the blue and brown ripples, and to watch a freighter pass under the highway bridge. Feel the rising wind and the dimming sun, and glance back west to see the gray clouds creeping over the city.

Get up and drift back into the Vieux Car
ré. Find my way to Pat O'Brien's and snag a Kier Royal and a Diet Coke just as the rain began. Wind my way upstairs to a quiet table and chairs outside of the ladies' powder room, and sip my drink and read my book, reading faster and faster as the rain falls and passes and the sky clears to darkening twilight, and the tale spins out in the last pages, cut off at the end like the Fates' thread.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:-- Do I wake or sleep?
~Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale"
This is how I always feel when I lift myself out of the pages of a good book at its finish. Floating, disoriented. Still drifting between the world around me and the world in the pages. My goal for the weekend is accomplished.

I decide to take a Haunted History ghost tour, now that the rain has stopped. My drinks finished with my book, I pop across the way to Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop, and for once see through the door someone I do actually know, not just a revenant wreathing a stranger in familiarity. I rush in to say hi to a friend as surprised to see me as I am to see him, who has met some friends of his from Florida at this best of half-way meeting places. We part ways after a few words. We'll meet again Wednesday at my birthday party.

The tour is fun and this time I have the cash to buy the book. Perfect timing, too, since now I need another book to read. I head to Fiorella's, because it wouldn't be a visit to New Orleans without fried chicken from Fiorella's. This has become more integral to me than Cafe du Monde. I suppose I do like fried chicken more than I like beignets.

I sit in the dim restaurant eating my chicken, absorbed in ghost tales, until I decide that this is VAMPIRE weekend, and I'll read the ghost stories later. I flip to the vampire section and begin working my way through that, until my meal is done. With chills running down my spine that have nothing to do with the cold north wind, I leave the restaurant resolved to get to my warm and well-lit hotel room as quickly as possible.

And I find myself in a deserted, if brightly-lit side street with no open shops heading towards the Ursaline convent, where they say vampires are boarded up in the attic. Lovely. I walk faster until, panting with my speed, and not a little self-induced terror, and relief at the people once again all around me, I turn into Royal Street and head to my hotel. But those two blocks have changed the color of the evening, and when I get back to my room, I can't shake the urge to look over my shoulder, or NOT look out my window, for fear of seeing a ghastly pale face hovering on the other side of the glass. Great.

Fortunately for my night's repose, there are friends on line to chat with, and LOLKatz at I haven't creeped myself out that thoroughly since I watched X-Files by myself for the first time. Geez. Finally, sleep.

December 16, 2007

Up before my alarm goes off and out on the streets before many of the shops open. Down to my new favorite place, the Croissant D'Or for breakfast. Eat my way through a delicious croissant filled with ham and cream cheese and an almost-as-delicious croissant filled with chocolate. Wander around a bit more, and find myself at 11am mass in St. Louis Cathedral.

Notes from the organ float amid the columns, drifting from one hymn to the next fluid and clear until voices begin singing "Wake, O wake and sleep no longer." Then "O come, O come Emmanuel" as the archbishop and his priests ascend the aisle. He welcomes us all, even, perhaps, some people from Arizona, come to support the Cardinals. He reminds them with sweet pastoral slyness that while we in the Roman Catholic church certainly have much respect for Cardinals, God considers it much better to be a Saint. It's a lovely mass in a beautiful church, not so grand or ornate as those in Europe, but full of light and richness and color. He ends his homily with words he treasures from a freeborn black woman who began to teach the coloreds and founded a religious house for them in the early part of the century.

"God, I believe in you. I hope in you. I love you. I want to live and die in you."
He calls these words his guide as he continues his ministry of 50 years, when his human weakness and failing strength would have him retire, but his church and his God call him to carry on where he's needed.

Only time to do some quick Christmas shopping in a shop I spotted earlier, then back to the hotel to check out. I hop a cab to the airport, and the Saint's game is on the radio. As we pass the Superdome, I'm struck by the thought that all that I'm listening to is going on just behind those curved walls. The commentators begin to gossip, as we exit I-10, about a large bird that just flew in front of them. "Was it a pigeon?" one asks. "No, those hang around your house," the other responds. "An albatross?" "No, those hang around your neck!"

I laugh out loud to hear a sports commentator referencing Coleridge.

Then it's the airport and paying the cabby and settling at a bistro table to fire up my laptop, and here we are!

I'll be home soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interview with the Hair Stylist OR My Date with the Big Easy

This weekend’s theme is vampires. My whole reason for staying in New Orleans is to read Interview with the Vampire in its setting. That and I’m in love the French Quarter.

Got my hair dyed on the first floor of One Shell Square by a stylist who was once personal assistant to Anne Rice. He had several of her books at his station, and when he offered me a magazine while I waited for my hair to finish turning Warm Celtic Copper, I explained my weekend project and asked if instead I could... He took his copy from the shelf and said, “Do you know where you left off?” <3

I was the first patron for dinner at Petunia’s. I don’t recommend. The food, for the price, not so much. My waiter… Okay, a very few men may call me “Babe” and not raise my hackles. ONLY my father could ever call me “Baby” without incurring the icy glare of doom. A waiter who calls me “Baby” on multiple occasions, and continuously bugs me about what I’m reading while I’m very obviously… busy reading… does not win points. The finishing touch was when he brought the check and said, “I’d love to talk with you more, but that book must be really good.” Grrr.

Next, the Haunted History vampire tour of the French Quarter. VERY fun. Lots of spine tingles, and not just because of the cute tour guide. :-) I love a creepy story, even if it does make me walk really fast back to my hotel. And I love the history of this city, the lore and the legend. I love to lose myself in it. To stare, eyes wide, ears focused on the tales the guide is spinning, breathing in deeply and soaking up everything I can as it swirls around me. I’ve been happy with both my Haunted History tours through the French Quarter, and I highly recommend that company.

I’m more than halfway done with the book, so I expect I’ll finish tomorrow. I intend to buy the book of New Orleans ghost and vampire stories that Jonathan (the guide) recommended.

The witching hour has come. Back to my dreams.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hi Dad, it’s Me

I tried to go to bed. But I couldn’t sleep. Then I was revisited by a thought I had shuffled away earlier. Earlier today, earlier this weekend, I can’t really remember when I had it, but it came back. When I think about my dad, I think of having him back that one last time, to pour out all of the things I wanted to say. Or I think of how I had him and never really… had him. Didn’t spend time with him the way I should have. Which is not to say we didn’t spend time together. But I’ve changed so much and grown so much, and I feel like I’m a different person, and this person, he didn’t know her the way I want him to.

I spend so much time thinking of having him back just one last time. But earlier, and now, I’m struck with the thought of having him back for life. Not one intense, emotional and meaning-packed capsule of time. For days. Months. Years. The years we could have had. I want to call home this weekend and hear him answer. To hear him say, “Hi, Lady!” with the warm every day sort of joy in his voice that says, “This isn’t a special occasion, but it’s special all the same, because I love you.” The next words would be, “You want to talk to Mom?” not because I didn’t want to talk to Dad, but because of course it was Mom I needed to talk to. She’d be the one to help hammer out logistics for my next trip home. She’d be the one to have all the family and neighborhood gossip. Dad would plunk himself back down in front of the television, secure in the knowledge that his baby girl had put in her weekly phone call, was alive and sounded happy, and would call again next week. Would be home a few weekends from now. And that was time enough for everything. I want that back.

But I do want more. I do want the chance to spend time getting to know him like I never did, and letting him get to know the person I’ve become. He loved to shock me with his profanity and his off-color jokes. How would he react if I spun some of it back to him? What would he think of this me who doesn’t mind admitting to being the most fabulous person in the room? Daddy and I, we had good banter. It would be even better now, now that I’ve found my feet, gotten a little cocky, and am no longer afraid to be unrestrainedly… myself. I feel like he’d see the woman he always knew I could be, and that as proud as he always was of me, he’d be even more proud, and happy in my happiness.

I want to feel like I belong again. Going to Momo’s for Thanksgiving Sunday, it was great to see them all, but I feel so out of place among them. The women, they’re all married, domestic, settled, except for my sister, and I actually spent the most time with her and her boyfriend. Different as they are from me, I felt most at home with them. And with my mom. The truth is, I know I belong, but I’m not sure where I fit, so I ended up following Mom and Brooke around a bit, and trying to hide my being awkward. At one point I even wandered into the room where the men were shooting the breeze, but I didn’t fit there either. But that’s where Daddy would have been. And if he’d been there, I would have fit where he was. I would have walked over and pulled up the chair next to his, and he would have said, “Hey, Baby-doll!” and put his arm across the back of my chair, and I could have sat and said nothing. Just listened to them talk, and not felt out of place. I would have felt more fit in than ever, with the new knowing myself and the old sitting at Daddy’s side. Because after all, knowing myself has been mostly realizing how much like him I am. Sure maybe I wouldn’t see him any more often than I did back then. But I want those every-so-oftens back. I want back not heart-wrenching moments of making the most of time, but the comfortable assumption that the time will always be there to be made the most of.

I so want to just spend that sort of time with him, slowly continuing to grow up and grow and grow old together as father and daughter, slowly sharing with him who I am now. But who I am now… When I look back, I know I am who I am now because he died. That his leaving us was the kick in the stomach that jolted me out of the self-defeating, self-effacing, self-denying rut I was in. I hate that it took that, but I have to admit I might not have gotten my act together without his death. And while I know that he would have given everything for my happiness, it sucks so bad that he would have been so thrilled to have stayed around and seen the gift he gave me by his leaving.

Perhaps that should have been my first clue that the Fates had begun to weave this tremendous, sticky, stifling web of irony that seems to have engulfed my life. Daddy helped me get it together, and would be so proud of the person I am now, only the only reason I’m this person I am now is because he died. I was married for four years and only wanted kids in the theoretical sense, and now that I’m divorced, the hormones have kicked over and make that far off wish a physical demand that I have no way of appeasing. I finally love myself completely, am thrilled about who I am, after years of trying to be someone I wasn’t, but thought I should be, and all those years it was easy to find guys interested in that person I was trying to be. Now that I’m someone I love completely, and I feel like I can give my heart more fully than ever before, I can’t for the life of me find a real relationship.

There are things I don’t want to go back to. I can say I wish my father hadn’t died, but I don’t have it in me to wish I was still the person I was before his death. I can only say I wish I’d learned it some other way, but would I have? Existential paradox aside, though, I want my father back. And for once I’m not asking for that “just one more day” crap. I can’t have him. I can’t. But if I’m going to beg for the impossible, I’m going to be unabashedly greedy. I don’t want one more day. I want years and years, wrinkles and gray hair, decades, the rest of a real, not-cut-off-short, long healthy life.

Not so I can squeeze every last drop out of every minute. But so I can let every minute ripen in its own time and fall into my hand like a blessing freely given, not clutched at and wrung dry. I want to call home this weekend for Mom, like I try to do every week, and hear his voice like it used to be. To say, just like I’d said it the week before, and would say it the next week, and for all the weeks of my life, the weeks I always thought I’d have…

“Hi, Dad! It’s me!”