Friday, November 30, 2012

Lost in the Corn Maze: Colleyville, TX

Just a few miles from my house there is a large field that is planted with corn in the late summer.  Hall's Pumpkin Farm has an annual pumpkin patch and corn maze leading up to Halloween.  I took some of my kids here when they were teenagers which wasn't much fun for me, let's be honest.

So this year I decided I wanted to go back, this time with companions who aren't embarrassed that I  exist.

At least they weren't when we arrived.

I can only imagine the horror my middle daughter would feel if she could see us now.  Not only is her mom doing embarrassing things in is her grandma!

I tried to talk my dad into doing his photo in the same one as mom and I but he opted for the cowboy instead. 

I think Hall's expanded their operation since I was here last.  I don't remember this house made of hay bales.  They also sell a variety of fall carnival foods like roasted corn, sausage on a stick, turkey legs and kettle corn.  Kendall talked me into a bag of kettle corn and a blue ring pop within the first 5 minutes.  Mom and dad opt for the apple cider.

It is chilly and windy on the day we are here and my mom is already cold.  She and dad were going to skip the corn maze but since that was my primary reason for coming, I insisted and paid for us all.

Kendall isn't keen to touch the hairy part of the corn.  I don't think she relates this in any way to the corn-on-the-cob she loves.

I have never been in a corn maze before, neither has Kendall.  She leads the way with confidence.

Big Pop (my dad), Gigi (my mom) & I follow blindly.  For a while.

Once we have been in the corn maze for a while, we realize this isn't going to be as easy as we thought.  We see the same people over and over.  Some of the paths go in a circle, some lead to dead ends.  We don't even stumble across the entrance again.  Sometimes people we have seen before will clue us in on the path they just came from (which is clearly not the right one).  We finally have the idea for Kendall to drop pieces of popcorn so we will know we have been that way before.  She isn't in the lead anymore.

We use several strategies, including the popcorn, that don't work.  Because I live nearby I know the streets that border the property and we try to go to the far edge of the maze near where there would be a traffic signal.  We see the signal but this isn't the way either.  Finally, with Gigi near freezing and starvation an employee takes pity on us and gives us a clue.  Later when we find ourselves unsure again we turn around and find he has followed us.  One more clue and we make it out!

Dad was never worried.  I think he was always confident in our popcorn method.

My mom on the other hand is so grateful to be out I am surprised she didn't kneel down and kiss the ground.  Notice she didn't pose by the Exit sign.  She immediately moved as far from the maze as possible lest it suck her back in. 

Our last mission is to let Kendall pick out a pumpkin.  (Hall's offers hay rides too but we were too tired and cold.  By "we" I mean Kendall and Gigi.)  Kendall picks out a pumpkin she can ride on.  Good thing Big Pop is here to carry it to the car.  She wanted someone to carry her to the car too.

Back at my house I let her decorate the pumpkin with markers and stickers.  We are leaving the cleaning and roasting of seeds to Kendalls' mom (my daughter Miranda) this year. Kendall doesn't mind, she is more interested in eating dinner which includes the roasted, hairless corn we bought.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Two Kinds of Relics - Pittsburgh, PA

Even with all of the shows I had lined up for Pittsburgh, I still hoped there would be time for one or two other outings of the non-theatrical variety.  The one that intrigued me the most was no sure thing because of the hours of operation.  Luckily, one day we finished a little early so my customer could attend a meeting so I set off for St. Anthony's.

St. Anthony's offers tours of the original chapel.  Their claim to fame is that they are in possession of the most Catholic relics outside of the Vatican.  See why I am intrigued?  A church in Pittsburgh is the holder of the second most Catholic relics?  Really? 

Because the guide apparently assumes anyone taking this tour must be Catholic and talks to you as if you obviously are, I was at a slight disadvantage during the tour as I am not.  For a while I thought I was going to be the only one on the tour - Catholic or otherwise - because the guide began her speech while I was the only one there.  She even started late after asking me if it was okay so that she could attend to some workers doing maintenance in another building.  She had been talking about 10 minutes when 3 other women and a nun came in hoping to participate.  So she waited for them to come in and do their gestures and get seated so she could start again.

Luckily, she did explain early on what a Catholic relic is.  I thought this would be things like crosses and books (I am confusing relic with antique) but learn that it actually includes things like clothing and body parts.  There are different degrees of relics - 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree - and it all depends on what it is and who it belonged to or who/what it may have touched.

All of those cases in the cabinet are requilaries, a container for a relic.  St. Anthony's boasts more than 5,000 individual relics.  The two on the top row right side where it curves contain the forearm bones of a saint.  Under the back alter you can see a small gold trunk which is actually a sarcophagus containing the full skeletal remains of a saint.

Some requilaries are large and ornate, some are tiny.  Those items that look like charms pinned around the case above are all requilaries.  Some contain a drop of blood, a piece of human tissue, a tooth or a single strand of hair.

I had a really hard time understanding why anyone would feel it necessary to save a single strand of hair to put in a gold case in a church until I was reminded that one of my coworkers has a lock of my hair in a ziplock bag in his desk.  I left it as a joke after he complained about my plans to cut my hair short.  That was something like 6 years ago and he still has it in the original baggie, the Noelle relic I guess.  It might be why the people we hire that are required to share an office with him don't last long.  It is a little creepy.  

This church is really beautiful inside (I found the outside pretty unremarkable) and our guide explains about the restoration effort and about the priest who had the original chapel built and who began acquiring the relics whenever and wherever he could.

Along the side walls in the extension built on to the back of the original chapel, there are statues representing the Stations of the Cross.  These life-size figures are carved completely out of wood.

I stay quiet throughout the tour when the guide asks questions because I don't want to say anything stupid and after my experience in Chicago at Late Night Catechism I already know I don't know a lot about what Catholics believe and why.

Here at the statue of St. Anthony she asks if anyone has a favorite saint and two of the ladies respond with Rita.  I don't know who that is and I don't say mine is Joan of Arc because I might give myself away as the only non-Catholic on this tour.  (A Catholic friend once told me that "real Catholics" don't really put much stock in saints like Joan of Arc and that some don't even recognize her as a true saint.  Whatever the case, she is listed on - I checked - and I still think she is a fascinating historical figure if nothing else.)

The priest of St. Anthony's, Father Mollinger, was known as the Healing Priest and it is said that there would be more than 10,000 people here at the service for St. Antony's feast day on June 13, hoping to be healed. 

At one time there were crutches, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, braces and other things stacked all around St. Antony's statue.  These were removed and a few are on display across the street in the gift shop.

The gift shop is pretty small and compared to the one I went to in St. John, Indiana, it is unimpressive.  I was somewhat tempted to buy some Holy Water.

I confess though I don't know the etiquette or use of this.  Do you drink it?  Splash it on people who need it?  I decide I might not be qualified to be in possession of this.

Is there a difference between Holy Water and Blessed Water?  There is a reason I need to know.

I might be able to save my $1.75 if I have an empty water bottle or jelly jar handy.

On the subject of money, they request you make a donation for the tour of St. Anthony.  Depending on the sign you read this would be between $3 and $5. 

I left $10.  The problem is, I did this when I thought no one else was going to arrive and while the guide was attending to the workers.  NO ONE SAW ME!  When the guide asks us to leave a donation at the end of the tour I feel very conspicuous as the only one not getting out her wallet.  

My second Relic outing was to ride one of the two "inclines" that serve downtown Pittsburgh.  These are essentially trolley cars that go up the side of a hill.  Once upon a time they took workers from the neighborhood at the top down to the city.  Today, they still serve the same purpose but are also a tourist attraction.  There are two inclines about 1 mile apart - the Monongahela and the Duquense.

I ride the Monongahela. I am at the bottom here (obviously) after having ridden down from the top.  You can see the car about halfway up returning to the top.  The inside of the car is pretty small, it might carry 20 people packed pretty tight.  It was hot (to me) on this day and there is no air movement and certainly no air conditioning.  I was happy to reach the bottom and get out.

Near the bottom you will find a shopping and restaurant district.

Where I bought these blinged-out sunglasses.  I was planning to give them to my daughter but they are very comfortable and I have a hard time finding sunglasses I like.  So I kept them.  My friend Carla says they are NOT me.  That makes me want to keep them all the more.

The car going down.  Views up here are pretty spectacular.

Downtown Pittsburgh

One week after returning home I went to look something up on the Internet and there was a breaking story of a hostage situation in Downtown Pittsburgh.  I clicked to read the story and was shocked to see my client's address as the location of the standoff!  One week earlier and I would have been there.  I obsessed about this fact for a few days.  The man ultimately surrendered later the same day and no one was injured.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jersey Boys & Drag Queens: Pittsburg, PA

First let me say I can never remember if it is Pittsburgh or Pittsburg.  Let me also say, I don't really care and this is not one of my favorite destinations.

When I arrived in Pittisburg(h) back in early September, it became my second time in the city.  The first time was during my "don't leave the hotel after dark" days so in some ways, this is my first time all over again.

Because I try to be cost conscious with my company's money, I end up getting a hotel in Green Tree, just outside of the city.  Mapquest says the hotel is 3 miles from by customer's location.  The first morning I give myself 45 minutes knowing in a good size city like this one, it might take more time to get there, especially when you drive downtown.  I was 30 minutes late.  That's hour and fifteen minutes to go 3 miles.  It wasn't a fluke either, that was the case all three days.

Fortunately my customer was understanding and it was good information to know since I bought tickets before I left Texas to see Jersey Boys the first night, also downtown.

But of course in the evening, it doesn't take nearly that long so I am VERY early and I prefer it that way.  As fortune would have it, there is an outdoor jazz concert going on right across from the theater.  I stand around listening and chatting with a very nice man named Dennis who happened by on his way home.  He told me a lot about what he thinks are interesting things to do in the city (none of which were things I ultimately did) and how the city has really undergone a great deal of revitalization since my last visit around 7 years ago.

I feel vaguely guilty about seeing Jersey Boys without David.  This is one we both talked about wanting to see.  When I saw that it was going to be in Pittsburg(h) while I was there, I checked to see if it would be in Dallas in 2013 but it isn't on the list.  It will be in Houston in March but now that I know I won't be living in Texas by March of next year, I am glad he was okay with me going on without him. 

As you can see from the image, I have a really good seat.  The only needing one seat thing works in my favor again.  Also in my favor is the woman to my left, Connie.  Connie and I enjoy talking before the show even though she is here with her husband.  Connie's husband didn't really want to come.  He isn't a jerk about it like some might be, he gives off more of a "I will probably sleep through this anyway" kind of vibe.  She lives a little far from the city so she rarely gets to do things like this and she is really excited.  Contagious excited.

The play is fantastic.  I really enjoy it but maybe not as much as Connie who grabs my arm as soon as the lights come on for intermission.  She is bouncing up and down, shaking me and squealing a little.  I think Jersey Boys is very similar to Million Dollar Quartet - the first one David and I saw together - and I would be surprised if I found out the same person(s) didn't write both.

On my second night I have plans to return downtown to another play, this time it is Dixie's Tupperware Party.  This is listed as an "interactive" play and from my experience with Bingo in Kansas City I know that means the cast will be interacting with some of the audience.  There is something I didn't realize about Dixie though.

Dixie is a man.

I think I might be the only one who didn't know this in advance and apparently Dixie isn't the only one of his/her kind.  I found some others also selling Tupperware in drag when I looked up Dixie Longate on the internet.  In fact, the top selling salesperson for several years in a row is a man who sells dressed in drag and Dixie has been quite successful in her own right.

This is a one-woman show and also a real Tupperware party.  We are given catalogs and order forms.  Dixie goes through the full sales pitch while talking about how she broke into Tupperware (at the suggestion of her parole officer).  There is, in my opinion, a motivational message here wrapped around her gushing about Brownie Wise who was a vice president of Tupperware in the 1950's (when women definitely weren't VPs at major corporations). 

Dixie's humor isn't for everyone though she is never directly inappropriate there is plenty of innuendo for those with a mind bent in that direction.  My family says I have no sense of humor and I definitely found her funny.  And she definitely interacted.  Four people (including the man and woman in the picture above) were seated on the stage and she spoke to them several times and had them do a relay race towards the end of the play.  She also gave out 3 door prizes which required the "winner" to come onstage.  This showcased Dixie's ability to continue to be funny, even when ad-libbing which she did again during a Q & A session.  And none of us there will ever forget Dirk, a man in the front row center that she picked on a lot and who was invited onstage to demonstrate how to use the can opener, something he had some difficulty doing.

This is a traveling show and if you get a chance to see it, go for it.  It was a fun show and a lot of laughs.  And girls, be sure to take your husband or significant other - especially if his name is Dirk.

My last night in town I am scheduled to go to an author's lecture at a community center.  Driving through and beyond downtown I find myself in a pretty rough neighborhood.  Normally I don't get nervous when I am out and about in a strange town but on this day I find myself feeling a little uneasy about my surroundings.  There are a lot of people milling around on the streets and there are a LOT of abandoned or apparently abandoned buildings.  Definitely some Criminal Minds opportunites here.  As I pull up to a red light, I look to my right and there is a church on the corner.  In the grass a sign:  Stop Shooting, We Love You.

There is no photo for two reasons.  First, the light changed and second, I was a little freaked out.  As I drive up to the community center I find there is no on-site parking.  I will be forced to park on the street and walk back to my white mini-van with New York license plates after dark.  After circling the block a couple of times and finding nothing even remotely close I decide I can't do it.  My mother's voice won't be quiet in my head.  David would freak out if he knew I was even remotely thinking about getting out of my car here. 

So, I drive back through downtown to return to my hotel for the night, disappointed.  Until...

That's right!  Jersey Boys...round 2!

My route to the hotel takes me past the theatre and now familiar parking garage I used for both plays.  I pull in on a whim, walk to the box office, ask what the best single seat they have is and get 6th row center 30 minutes before curtain.  Sold! 

So for the second time in two days, I sit through Jersey Boys.  I have to say, it was just as good the second time.  I only wish Connie could have been there with me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Meet Me In Montana: Missoula, MT

I haven't posted in 3 weeks.  It honestly seems like longer.  I have struggled with whether I was done with this, at least for now, but today I find that I am not.  Not yet.  And a LOT has happened.  Some good, some bad. 

Relax, this isn't the bad.

There is a company in Missoula, Montana that David talked to about a job a few years back.  At that time, our daughter was preparing to move in with her daughter.  The job would be a slight step back in pay (but a step forward in a lot of other ways) and we just didn't feel we could do it while taking on two dependents and with no way of knowing how long they would be with us.  A year and a half turned out to the be answer. 

Then, the opportunity presented itself again.  I encouraged David to go up there this time and at least talk to them.  Then he could make a more informed decision.  Once he went to Wichita, Kansas to interview for a job and on the way home he called and said, "I don't want to live in Wichita."  Maybe that would happen again.  So he told them he would come up.

And they said, "Bring her too."

I think this is a totally smart move on their part.  What if he took the job and then I moved up there and said, "What the hell were you thinking?"  This way we both know what we are getting in to.

David already knows someone at the company he will be interviewing with.  Gerry worked with David where David works now before Gerry and his wife relocated to Montana a few years ago.  We are surprised when Gerry meets us at the airport.

But not as surprised as I am at the huge bear in the lobby or the various other animals stuffed and mounted on the walls and in other cases.  You definitely wouldn't see that at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  This is also an "international airport".  I think they might have one flight a week to Canada.

Gerry wants to make sure David knows how to get to the office for the interview the next day.  The office is on the airport property.  Here in Dallas, that might require a tour and a map and a call saying you will be late the next day when you get lost.  I don't think that will be an issue here.  Gerry's wife is along for the trip and I like her immediately.  In fact, when we get to the parking lot, the boys go in one car and she and I go in another and we have known each other less than 15 minutes.

The next morning, David and I head to WalMart on the way to the office.

As an experienced packer it is somewhat unacceptable that neither of us managed to get here with a toothbrush.  At Walmart we buy a big pack of Swispers.  I will put the excess in my laptop bag for future packing lapses.

Once we arrive at the office, Gerry takes me on a tour of the facility and it is really interesting.  After that I leave David there and the plan is that I will come back around lunch and in the meantime I will go check out Missoula.  I have three things on my agenda:  look at some neighborhoods, go to the quilt store and go to the art museum.  I never made it to the art museum.

I find this pumpkin patch in the first neighborhood I go to.  The view is spectacular as it is most everywhere.  Even in the WalMart parking lot we had a great view of the mountains.

At the quilt store, I browse around and one of the ladies asks if she can help me.  We start talking and I mention that we are thinking of moving to the area and I just wanted to see what my choices were in town for quilting supplies and fabric.  She ends up giving me her HOME phone number so that if I move and have questions, I can feel free to call her.  Let me just say, that would NEVER happen at home and at home I would never do this myself.  The more we met people on this trip the more we realized that things here are just different.  More trusting.  Slower.

Even at Hooters, which David was happy to see they had because "the food is so good".  After one drink and some fried cheese we had to hunt the waitress down so we could leave for an appointment as we had been there about 45 minutes and no one had taken our food order.

I am starting to learn that people believe that nothing exists in Montana but Missoula isn't a tiny town.  They had a lot of the stores we have where we live now.  I saw an Old Navy, an Outback Steakhouse, a Lowe's.  The difference is that where we live now there are 2 Lowe's within 5 miles of our house and another that is about 8 miles away.  In Missoula, there is 1, the next closest one is in Helena, MT, 118 miles away.  I am pretty sure I can live with just 1.

Although I am not sure if David and I can handle all of this traffic. 
Especially during rush hour like it is now.

We met with a realtor who gave us some areas to explore based on our budget and what type of home we would want.  One thing David and I are in agreement are is that we want a VIEW.  Maybe in part due to what happened at dinner.

Diana & Gerry had us over.  While waiting on Gerry to arrive, Diana sat with us on their dock.  Ducks came by.  An eagle flew over.  I felt a little like Cinderella with all of the wildlife coming out to greet me.  I think if I move here maybe little mice will come make quilts with me.

After going inside, I looked out the front windows and see a group of deer grazing across the way, 6-7 of them.  I get excited and point it out to David.  He says, "huh".  Apparently David is unimpressed by a stand of deer hanging around the house because when he was "a kid" he "saw that all the time".  I have known David a LONG time and I know that he spent his entire school career in the Grand Prairie district - a suburb of Dallas.  Not a town known for the free roaming deer.  So at some point before he was 5 he was apparently surrounded by deer to the extent that he became desensitized to beauty of them roaming wild.

(Update:  After reading this David said there were only 2 deer.  I said there were 8 and he accused me of exaggerating since I said 6-7 above.  He also said they were just standing there but the way I remember it they were frolicking along the water's edge and the little ones were playing freeze tag.)

The next day when we saw a single deer standing between two houses? NOW he is impressed.

On that note, I think this is a good time for my favorite one liners, which I have noticed are always better when David is around (you cannot even imagine the ones I don't put on here because our mothers might read this):

 - I can both inspect it and work on it, like a gynecologist.
 - Watch out for the duck poop.
 - Oh, I thought you were talking about sex.
 - I bet bus people suck more than airplane people.
 - We are at Nebraska you stupid heifer!

David went back for a second round of interviews the next day but we still had time for a little exploring.

We stumbled on Saint Mary's Mission, the oldest mission in Montana established in 1841. 

This was an Indian mission until 1891 when the Indians were moved to a reservation.  It was an active church until 1954 when a new church was built and it became a historic site.

When we went to the airport to return to Dallas, the TSA agent looked at my driver's license and said, "Texas?  No one lives in Texas anymore, they all live up here."  I said we might too soon.  I am pretty sure that I would be on a first name basis with this guy if we do because the airport is so small.  A woman sat down next to us and asked me if there was a gate number on my boarding pass.  I said no.  What I didn't say is:  Why do you need one?  You can see all of the gates from right here where we are sitting.  DFW has 5 terminals with between 30-40 gates EACH.  I think there were 4 total gates at this airport.

And a gift shop where I considered the purchase of these Moose earmuffs.  I decided against since we came home with no decision.  David bought some huckleberry licorice and jam.  He is a little obsessed with huckleberry.

The waiting was agony.  Diana is posting pictures on Facebook (we were FB "friends" the day we met) of Blue Heron and Big Horn Sheep from her hiking trips and I can only assume her commute to work.  In the meantime I had to set off for Nashville and then Edwardsville, IL.  My phone was practically glued to my hand.

I called David on the way to the airport in St. Louis to check in and I didn't even ask.  If he knew, he would have told me.  Less than 30 minutes later I miss a call from him (damn you 80's station on satellite radio!).  Later, I check my phone and there is a text:  Looks like I need to go shopping for some winter boots.

So today, this is the view from my house because WE ARE MOVING TO MONTANA!  As of today my house is officially for sale.  Soon I hope to trade this view for this one:

Between now and then, I have some catching up to do here as I never wrote about Pittsburgh, Miami, a visit to the local corn maze and a trip to Baltimore with my mom to see my daughter and granddaughter.  Be patient with me and I will get to all that but get ready for some moving stories along the way.  There are bound to be some interesting stories when you decide to move from Texas to Montana in the winter, right?