Wednesday, November 28, 2018

November 28: Alaska

Alaska feels like pain to me. I mean, it's beautiful and full of wildness and I hear parts of it are so far away from civilization that you don't even pick up static on the radio. But different places evoke different things for different people, and Alaska is not a happy or wondrous place for me.

Alaska is where my ex-boyfriend spent his 5th grade year. His parents had divorced about a year before. His father was abusive, both to him and his mother. To the point that when I knew his mom, the brain damage from his beatings made it almost impossible for her to hold down a job.

After the divorce, he left Texas and went up to Alaska. The Last Frontier. She took her young son and followed him. Remarried him. That's a verb that shouldn't exist.

By the time I knew him, Alaska was part of the story he didn't tell. Until it was seeping out of his pores.

Alaska was part of the reason we couldn't stay together. I was too young to handle so many things that adults can't even handle most of the time. We were 17, 18 years old and Alaska was ruining my life.

At self-centered 17, it was hard for me to see that Alaska had already ruined his.

And that was the biggest part of the problem. I couldn't see him and who he was and who he would be and who we could be together. I don't regret leaving. God, I love my life and all of what would never be if I'd stayed with him, if I'd dwelt in the realities of what Alaska had done.

What Alaska has done for me, though, I don't regret either. Alaska opened my eyes to pain. Pain that doesn't go away. Pain that can't be easily managed. Pain that reverberates all over your life. Alaska made me see. I can't ever say I don't see. I see you. Oh baby I see you now. Alaska is pain.

 But have I ever visited? Only in dreams and in moments across a classroom or table. Only in my heart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

November 27: South Carolina

South Carolina feels softer, more genteel than North Carolina. Little triangle state overshadowed on the map by its northern sister, wedged in next to Georgia.

South Carolina brings up the words barrier islands for me. I'm a barrier island sometimes. Standing between someone who needs a champion and the person or situation they need defending from. Waves rush up against me and I break them before they hit the mainland. I can feel my fists go up.

South Carolina is the south, too, and that always makes me panic a little bit inside. I can't land Georgia's sins on South Carolina's back, but it's hard to separate them. There is nothing southern about me. There is plenty Texan, but south? No. And I can feel my fists go up. I can't. There's a whole section of the country I can't make eye contact with across the table.

South Carolina stands behind Georgia, cutting his meat. Have I been to South Carolina? Hoo boy no. Fists.

Monday, November 26, 2018

November 26: St. Pius V

It was my church. All my children were baptized there. I was confirmed there. My daughters received their first reconciliations and communions there, from a lovely priest who isn't there anymore, and isn't the same man I fell in love with back when he arrived there.

I don't live there anymore. Not at Pius and not at any other Catholic parish.

I'm a traveler--not really a refugee, but certainly not an immigrant. I'm not going back, but I don't really have a new place yet either. Lots of reasons made me leave, after I tried so so hard to stay for so so long.

It finally got to be too much. Too much and not enough. I got tired of being told that people had hurt me, not the Church. That people had made mistakes, not the Church. That I didn't see the big picture. That I needed to be open to God's grace to forgive. I started to feel like a battered woman, always going back, always accepting the limp apology and the robust reasons why I was at fault, always convincing those around me that it was for the best, it was my faith and I couldn't not believe.

Turns out I could. Scratch that. I have a lot of faith. I just no longer genuflect before sitting at a table where I don't get fed.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

November 25: National Parks and Monuments: A list

National Parks:
Bryce Canyon
Capitol Reef
Carlsbad Caverns
Crater Lake
Gateway Arch
Grand Canyon (North and South Rims)
Grand Teton
Great Smoky Mountains
Kings Canyon
Mammoth Cave
Petrified Forest
Rocky Mountain

National Landmarks and Monuments:
Blue Ridge Parkway
Devil's Tower
Muir Woods
Ulysses S. GrantWhite Sands

National Seashores, Recreational Areas, Etc.:
Appalachian Trail
Golden Gate
Ozark Riverways
Padre Island
Pictured Rocks

National Forests (more than just driving through):
Mark Twain
Medicine Bow

Saturday, November 24, 2018

November 24: Fort Collins

My oldest is heading to college next fall. Likely destination is Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. We visited together last Easter, touring the campus and talking to locals and having a nice time sightseeing and soaking up the local culture.

She fits there.

I watched her on that trip putting herself into the scenery, into the stories, onto the blankets in the oval shaped center of campus with a friend with a guitar and another with a golden retriever, the bikes laid down on their sides while the afternoon passed in the sun.

She’s leaving. It’s time.

 It’s time.

Friday, November 23, 2018

November 23: Ash Pit

When I was little my grandfather used to call me Snicklefritz and jokingly threaten that he was going to throw me in the ash pit.

All city houses had alley ash pits. My next door neighbor still has hers, full of dirt and weeds. I can see where mine was and where the one across the alley probably was. And they were literally ash pits--a place to put ashes from the fire place, the coal furnace, and also, of course, for trash to burn.

Nowadays our fireplaces aren't used (or are converted to gas); the furnaces are on the natural gas line; trash goes in the dumpsters. I am fond of dumpsters overall, having lived in places with roll out carts or bags by the front curb. I like having things hide in the alleys.

But I like that our houses are old enough to have the vestiges of this kind.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

November 22: Water

St. Louis City has the best drinking water in the nation. It's true. It's been decided by a panel of water tasting judges. Wouldn't that be an interesting job?

I've known this my whole life. Our water is clear, for one thing. It comes out of the tap without sediment or color. Ice cubes melt in your glass and there's no extra stuff at the bottom that got pulled out when the water froze. I have lived in places where water was slightly brown or pink or cloudy. Sometimes very cloudy. Sometimes "better make tea before you drink it" kind of sediment problems. Nasty stuff, after living here.

Our water is also taste-free. It does not taste like a chlorinated pool; it doesn't taste metallic, salty, muddy, stale, or swampy. There's no taste at all. Perfect for all purposes, frankly--it makes great coffee and tea, for instance. It's like licking the condensation off a glass of an ice cold beverage of your choice. It tastes like wet.

Our water is cold, too, with pipes far enough below ground to keep from freezing.

We have a lot of it. Enough that I don't have a water meter--I pay a flat rate for water, no matter how much I use. All the old houses in the city are this way. Those two big rivers, you know.

I love St. Louis water. Enough that when I travel, I have a hard time staying hydrated, because every other tap water I've tasted? Gross.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

November 21: Ted Drewes

"The Chippewa location is the original," Carlos would always insist my freshman year. Then I'd argue with him, because I knew better. Grand was first (in reality, it wasn't, but of the two that still exist, it is older). He'd giggle and I'd get infuriated over nothing and we'd change the subject, again and again.

My dad would come home late after an evening shift, or maybe it's an amalgamated memory of many late nights for different reasons. I had on footie pajamas and a kiddie concrete, strawberry or pineapple, always, sitting in the red van while he had hot fudge and my mother had butterscotch. Hot fudge and butterscotch took on gender, it was so solidly connected in my mind to the flavor of concretes at Ted Drewes.

When I announced I'd be going to Saint Louis University, my anatomy teacher, Mr. Termuhlen, was excited--that's where he went, that's where he met his wife. He had something for me to promise. I needed to find someone from Ohio, somebody in my dorm, which was his wife's dorm, of course, and take them to Ted Drewes. I didn't--I never fell in with any Ohioans, but I took other people there. And people took me there.

The whole last month of pregnancy, all I wanted was a Dutchman sundae (pronounced sun-duh, of course) and it was the one time of year the Chippewa location was closed. Grand is only open in the summer, but Chippewa stays open except for the dead of winter. It was the dead of winter.

I had to survive on Dairy Queen, which is like asking for a glass of red wine and being handed Boone's Farm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November 20: Iowa

Iowa is a friend who needed to finish up a semester of college she left hanging when she followed a boyfriend down to our town.

They wound up breaking up (girls, note, following a boyfriend against your better interest is rarely a good idea) and ten years went by.

Iowa is packing up my car with her stuff and driving her to college, which was a weird parental thing to do considering that she was 6 years older than I was. But I'm always kind of parentaling around with people.

Iowa is a cute little town filled with pristine houses and well-maintained yards. The streets were very clean.

Iowa is driving back up there at the end of the semester to bring her home, a graduate.

Iowa is her asking me if we will still be friends if she breaks up with the current boy (not the boy she followed from before).

Iowa is my mental calculus on how to do that right.

Iowa is doing that wrong.

Monday, November 19, 2018

November 19: Louisiana

Louisiana feels a little rundown and a little scary, a little foreign and beaucoup de risques. 

Louisiana is the Pontchartrain Causeway, an endless ribbon of highway across the water.

Louisiana is the Lake Charles Bridge.

Louisiana is remembrances of my father's family's vacations.

Louisiana is a high school French class taught by an elderly Cajun woman. It's a French Food day with a stock pot with a whole damned chicken in it and sausages that I'm not sure we should have eaten. Louisiana is realizing the French I learned isn't the French anyone else speaks. I skipped most of French III, though, so I might be wrong.

Louisiana is being 17 and watching a baseball game in Houston with a Cajun girl I'm nervous around. She's sitting next to me on the bleachers while we watch the team dressed in white and brown warm up for the game. She tells me the story of how they met. She and her friends had come down to Nacogdoches to watch an ex-boyfriend play college ball. How the catcher on the opposing team had asked her out, from all the girls in the crowd, and she wound up drunk at his place, sorting through his mail trying to figure out who he was. How she knew getting into bed with him was a bad idea, but she couldn't even help herself. How her family was livid when she dropped out to marry him. How she knew he wasn't the perfect man, but he was hers.

At least for now, she ended with a sigh.

I followed her gaze out towards the dugout, where he was going over the lineup. And instead of the guilt or shame I should have been feeling, there was this rush.

I sat and listened to her and watched as the game started and I kept the books and wore a t-shirt with a baseball on it, and his ball cap with his name inside the brim. White cap dingy with sweat and our brown high school logo on the front.

 Louisiana is her getting up to go take a smoke and him coming over and spitting on the ground in front of me, sunflower seeds.

"You don't need to worry about her," he tells me.

 "I might never worry about her again," I said, full of the risk of this entire conversation.

"Good. You're way smarter than she'll ever be."

Well no shit, I thought, but didn't say.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

November 18: Kansas

Kansas, you know, is staring into the middle distance.

Kansas is the purgatory before the mountains, the labor before the birth.

Kansas endures.

Kansas is a state park in the wind, cooking dinner over a fire in a dutch oven.

Kansas is a sunset all the way around us.
 Kansas is a little bit more than it seems.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

November 17: Georgia

Georgia is being an outcast. Being disconnected and not knowing why. Never being able to figure it out. Looking all over myself and not knowing what I did wrong. Did I sound wrong? Look wrong? Why am I on the outside?
Georgia is the first place where I was new, and never was able to pick where I belonged.

Georgia is being told where your place is.

Georgia is my name scrawled on the chalkboard in the locker room with the word "Dyke" as my definition. Is. A. Dyke. One of those green chalkboards with yellow chalk that never really erase. Coach Hatcher never had the decency to wash the board down with a wet rag. So I was a dyke for most of sophomore year.

Georgia is a broken collarbone, broken glass, brokenness.

Georgia is anonymous notes written to me, my family, my parents. Georgia doesn't want our kind.

Georgia is a purgatory that burned away the last bits of my nonsense and made me set my face like flint and push through each day until that day my parents announced we were moving to Texas.

Georgia still makes my fists ball up, pushing my fingernails into the flesh of my palms with anger at the indecency of it all, the unfairness, the wreckage and shards of glass all around me.

Friday, November 16, 2018

November 16: Arizona

Arizona is an old yellowed photograph of my mom with a bandana covering her hair, holding me on her lap sitting in an old jail cell in Yuma.

Arizona feels like taking a bet that the old van can get across it without overheating.

 Arizona is standing on the edge of the southern rim of the Grand Canyon when I'm about twelve, my dad holding my youngest sister, grinning at my mother to take the damned picture.

The Grand Canyon was bigger than anything ever was.

I have a button on my sweatshirt that says, "Say nope to dope."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

November 15: Wyoming

Wyoming is an otherworldly national park. It is a ranger program that ends with the serenity prayer because, ya know, super caldera and we need to love the people we love and we need to RIGHT NOW. In fact, it was the best ranger program I ever attended. I wanted to hug the ranger afterward.

Wyoming is this sign:

And watching oh so many people forget this sign.

Wyoming is like another planet. It is places like this:

Wyoming is also where a pair of newlyweds were going to do a couple years, her getting her masters, him his BSN. And then they got pregnant with me instead and stayed in St. Louis. But not for long.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14: West Virginia

I read Shiloh when I did my apprentice teaching, to a 4th grade class of suburban folks and farmers over in Illinois. And then I saw the movie with another class, a few years later, and it felt wrong. There was something wrong about the depiction. And I realized it: they had sanitized the family's poverty and made them essentially upper middle class folks with hunting licenses. Poverty isn't a character in that book, but it is definitely present. The movie had changed it for our own comfort.

I felt like it didn't do right by the story. Or by all the kids who would read that book and feel a connection.

How many stories get changed for our comfort? How many folks don't say what is killing them from the inside, for our comfort? How many of us watch as people pass by and don't see it? How can they not see? How can this have been going on?

West Virginia, after all, feels like every kid I didn't do right by. I can name them. But it would drive me into a self-indulgent melancholia with no method of revolt.

West Virginia darkness covers my skin
Loneliness and cold are breaking me

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November 13: Vermont

My friend Trisha goes to Vermont each year and stays near a town that is right near Indigo Bunting.

For a long time Trisha would say, "Bridgett, you would love Vermont," and then goes on to describe some hardscrabble hippie thing that is just. like. me. And she's right. I would love Vermont.

The tenor of this conversation has changed over the years. It has gone from, "we should go/you should go/you would love Vermont" to something more hesitant.

"I'm afraid that if you went to Vermont," she admitted, "that you would never come home."

I laugh, but she is probably correct.

It feels a little bit like Passover when I think about it.

Next year in Vermont. Next year in Vermont. Next year in Vermont.

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12: Texas

This will be a long post.

Texas is a rebirth. Texas is deciding that I am going to be from here and that's right, you're not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.

Texas is a biker ice house where Jason and I duck in when his jeep breaks down and then both of us taking a step back because wait, we are going to get hurt here. We are going to get raped and killed here. But no. The skinny lady with the hair wider than her shoulders asks us, him in baseball pants and me in a uniform skirt, if she can help us. And she does.

Texas is a pond outside a friend's house and how on earth did we all wind up without our clothes on.

It is a narrow two lane unpainted road, often with standing water, as my route to school every day.

Texas is prom and first real boyfriends and several fake ones. Texas is having to call my dad for permission for the barber to cut off all my hair when I'm 17.

Texas is being too smart for my own good and knowing it. And flaunting it. It is being my high school's first and only National Merit Scholar. I know because it doesn't exist anymore.

Texas is like that. Everything is new. Hurricanes and black mold wipe it all out over time. It is constantly churning. Obliterating.

Texas is making friends with adults for the first time. And friends with people who don't speak my language in their homes. Or have my skin color. Or my gender. Or my socioeconomic class. Texas is about a level playing field.

Texas is dancing with a boy at a bar to a song about drinking yourself to death. While on retreat. Texas is getting felt up on retreat. Perhaps Texas is bad at retreats.

Texas is saying goodbye at graduation and seriously never seeing any of them ever again.

Texas is a summer job at Wal*Mart and my father's advice ringing in my ears: life looks better through a classroom window than from behind a lathe.

Texas is many, many Dairy Queens. And Whataburgers. And Waffle Houses.

Texas is walking down the beach on Galveston Island and down in Freeport. It is the dirtiest ocean you've ever been to and it's mine. Texas is a day after a storm and so many shark eye moonsnails.

Texas is all my speeding tickets.

Texas is buying a German army coat at an army surplus store on Galveston when I realize I'm going to stay in St. Louis after all. 

Texas is belonging to something just by opting in. Texas doesn't have unwritten rules to break. Texas don't care. Texas wants you to sit at the table.

Texas is getting home well after curfew and it is still above 90 degrees in the middle of the night. It is sneaking into and out of the house. It is a fight at my brother's graduation party that resulted in the cops being called.

Texas is coming home and sleeping on my parents' couch for a summer while I figure out what the hell I'm going to do next.

Texas is saying yes at a barbecue joint and saying no in my parents' driveway. Texas is walking away forever from something that isn't good for me, even if it's been fun.

Texas is my uncle's dream to retire to a little trailer outside of Clute and his best friend from the Navy and no more bullshit.

Texas is visiting my brother and his girlfriend and their new baby, with my own baby, and then having mine get croup while I'm visiting and then spend a day in a Spanish-speaking clinic where they think I'm there to get her ear tag removed. Muy linda, they kept saying. Yes, I know she's pretty. But she can't breathe.

Texas is that same brother playing me Robert Earl Keen songs. It is my realization that I am crowding the fuck out of him. It is deciding that I have to be easy. And it is visiting him again many years later and everyone is easy.

Texas is a good place to be from. I'm not from there, or anywhere at all. But that's ok. Texas will graft me in.

I love Texas. I can't even help it. It's like the state version of my brother with all his stories and laughter and nonsense and politics and jalapeno recipes. It is big and noisy and ADHD and feels just right when I need it.

Have I been to Texas? Baby, I'm still there in my head some days.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 11: Tennessee

Tennessee is lived in. Comfortable. Wabi-sabi.

If they knew what wabi-sabi was.

And in that way, Tennessee is a lot like me. Like my house. Like my life. Broken in jeans and broken in personality and moments of beauty surrounded by a lot of hiking to get there.

It's what I'm becoming, Tennessee, if I just let go and let it happen. Let the crows feet crinkle and put on the hoodie sweatshirt and try to find a via media, a middle way, between conforming to what I should be and losing myself in what I could be. Tennessee feels right.

I'm not too hard persuaded. I will probably be Tennessee in the end. And Tennessee is perfect.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

November 10: North Carolina

North Carolina is balanced at the end of the next switchback. I kept telling myself that as I walked further and further up the ridiculously named "Low Gap" Trail. Low gap my ass. Tennessee was killing me with switchbacks like staircases. This seemed like such a good idea. When we told the guys in the raft that we were going to try it, these men, these scruffy men who lead float trips full of girl scouts down this river every day all summer long, looked at us and told us that was quite a big bite to take.

North Carolina is at the top of the next switchback. I can do this. I can do this because I don't have a lot but I do have stamina. I persevere. If I can do 52 hours of labor with that crazy Maeve,  I can walk up a hill to North Carolina.

North Carolina wasn't at the top of the next switchback. Or the next. We kept walking, my traveling companions including Sophia who was smiling at me mildly as I kept saying, "no, I can go further." I can keep at it. I can keep going. I can do it. I can do this. I am more than this.

I could see the change in the light as we curved around on the last switchback. Finally the last one. I saw it but I didn't believe it. I kept my eyes on the steep rocky ground, these hiking boots that could keep their own blog steadily moving me up. This. Mountain.

And then there we were.

She sits on a big gray rock/takes off her boots and socks/not knowing what/she will do next/just starts to cry

I hike because it calms my brain. I can feel the synapses refocus and reorganize. I hike because damn it, I'm tired, I'm over 40, my brain won't leave me alone, and all I want to do most days is crawl back into bed but I won't. I won't do it. I can't do it. So I hike. And I run a little and bike. But my favorite is a hike to something amazing or hidden or beautiful.

This hike obliterated me. Because we got to North Carolina and we weren't done. Not even.

Walking the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, walking that footpath, it was easier than Low Gap, but it was haunted. So many footsteps on that narrow little trail. It felt more like a pilgrimage than anything I've ever done before. The path was so narrow. How could it be so narrow?

This is all I know of North Carolina. But it is all I need.

Friday, November 9, 2018

November 9: Nevada

Nevada is concrete bunkers. It is ridiculous hotels and plastic realities. It is piercingly hot deserts with alien creatures and it is air-conditioned 24 hour buffets.

Nevada is listening to the Grateful Dead lying on your bed flipping through the letters I wrote to you, saved in a cardboard box. It is rereading all my words, like a proto-blog, and feeling guilty that I haven't saved all of yours.

 Nevada is learning that wishing for something doesn't make it so, and that timing can sometimes be everything.

Nevada is decisions made.

Nevada is a casino. In some ways it is Schrodinger's cat simulation. Nevada both is and isn't at the same time. We are both winners and losers. We are together and alone. We are hello and goodbye.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

November 8: Missouri

Note: Some of these, the state ones, I have taken from an older blog. I'm not doing all 50 states but I wanted to add in a few of my favorites.

Missouri is the 1850s and two Irish immigrants marry in Kansas City. Missouri is a bricklayer in north St. Louis. A hardscrabble farm in Appleton, another in Vichy. Missouri is an orphanage in St. Louis and another in Cape Girardeau. It is losing your children to tuberculosis and marrying at 16 already pregnant with your first child and your brother getting shot by his step-son. It is dying from rat poison you administered yourself because you were going to prison. It is unmarked graves and marked ones, too.

Missouri is old brick houses that breathe a sigh of relief every time you repair or restore something that is broken or neglected. While you repair yourself in the process.

Missouri is a creek in Maries County where you spread your dog's ashes because it was her favorite place. And one of yours.

Missouri is a cave where you can feel the earth's pulse. It is rivers and grapevines and bike trails and uncles who kiss you hello every time and gravestones you know by heart.

Missouri is three children brought into the light.

Missouri is a monastery with industrial windmills towering over diminished women all in black. It is a home of relics from all over Europe.

Including yourself.

It is brick alleyways and crime; crime fighting and a clenched fist.

It is the home of all your best friends. It is also an open hand.

It is speaking truth to power and being easy. It is a tattoo parlor in the Grove and a rock bank on a river with friends. It is nights spent on the porch. Nights spent in the basement listening to the tornado sirens. Nights spent in tents under the stars.

Missouri is corner bars and churches and staying too long and laughing too loud and crying until there are no more tears and no more words and you know what has to be done.

Missouri is your home, you homeless girl, it is your oak tree taproot, you rootless gypsy.

Missouri runs through my veins like the bricks under the asphalt of my city street.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 7: Montana

Montana is climbing up to my second fire tower. Vestiges of important things hidden away.
 Montana makes me feel strong in an isolated place full of powerful forces beyond my control.

But Montana is something else too, something darker. Never before in my life did I have the desire to walk away.  "What if I just stayed?"

"Maybe they'd want a math teacher...what could I do for far away can I run?"

Montana is far enough to run.

In the end, Montana hibernates like a bear in the back of my mind.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 6: Mount Carmel High

Built by Carmelites, sturdy 1950s era two story Catholic high school shaped like a U. Nothing special; everything in Carmelite brown.

They left it to the Houston Diocese, who ran it for a long time. Then a new archbishop wanted a shiny new cathedral, and the highly subsidized low income high school on the south side amongst industry and the dirtiness of life was shuttered.

The Jesuits bought it and started something new.

My daughters go to high school where my mom did. People here have histories and alumni associations. I have a yearbook and a brown letter jacket.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for us who have recourse to thee

Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5: House on Echo Lane

My grandparents' house, small, white, utilitarian; detached garage with no doors stuffed with cars and junk on a postage stamp working class suburban plot.

 The basement access stairs covered in English ivy: such a good hiding place. Grapevines, and the wires that supported them--I never ate the grapes but I walked between the wires and the back fence in my own hidden corridor.

The garage sat only a foot from the fenceline and only a child could squeeze back there. Nothing to see or find, but there was a sort of magic in the proportions.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

November 4: Mt. Cammerer

Fire tower, Appalachian Trail, Tennessee North Carolina border built in the 1930s, by hand. Marveling at the scope: the 7 mile trail from the last place a truck could fit, and then, what, young men carried the stones one at a time up Low Gap?

After my second visit, standing down in the nearby town like Millay, marking what must be mine. The mountain so high I can't see the fire tower but I know that it's there, with its Canada warblers and octagonal building set into a crag at the mountaintop.

It makes me happy that it's there waiting for my return.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

November 3: That hotel

A little island out of time, out of place, out of the regularity of life.

Sitting at the hotel bar drinking something with whiskey and kirsch, shockingly good, making me giggly. The couple next to us buy us a drink, the first time a stranger ever did that for me: bartender, a round of whatever they are drinking, on my tab.

Walking to the elevator after last call with one last glass in hand.

Waking in the morning with everything right in the world under a white duvet.

Friday, November 2, 2018

November 2: Clyde, Missouri

Bend in the road kind of town. But that bend contains a Benedictine women’s monastery where not my heart, but my soul resides parttime.

The narrow gothic chapel with choir stalls facing each other, soft quiet guestrooms with perfect views of dawn, the grounds all around where the stillness is only broken by what sounds like ocean--but is instead giant windmills the sisters campaigned to have installed on their land, farmers’ land nearby, and on the grounds of the men’s monastery down the way--it’s called the Conception Project, named for the men’s house.

Even though the women did the work.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

November 1: St. Louis

My birthplace, my on and off again home, a toxic lover you keep coming back to even though she's so punishing, exhausting.

St. Louis has been compared to 1970s New York. We are gritty, bottom of the totem pole strong and mean.

When my sister Colleen, who had been mugged at gunpoint before, was attacked on her front porch by a man who knew what he wanted but thank God didn't get, she said to me, "God damn it, this whore of a city is hard on me."

I’m torn. This is home, but it can be so rough.