Ohio Winter Rains

A dull gray sky greets me from my office window. It is winter in Ohio, yet unseasonably warm temperatures hold the snows back. Creeping fog bathes the hills and valleys in the distance. Droplets of water, precariously clinging to the topmost twigs of the tree that grows on this side of the house, capture the precious little sunlight that filters through the mists.

I do not have much affection for sunshine and heat; I am a Moody Weather Person. Rain is ultimately quixotic and I revel in the earthly scents that rise up from the saturated ground. The fog behaves as a natural baffler, muting the distant sounds of the highway. This is a day for soup and Kipling. I would perhaps enjoy it more had I not picked up Better Half’s flu, but by doing so I do have an excuse to remain in bed and take pleasure in this exquisite weather as it paints the moving pictures so perfectly framed by my bedroom windows.

Final Photographs of CO; Return Home!

I have returned home, and am thrilled that the house is still standing. Better Half did a spectacular job, all kidding aside this past week. He cleaned the house (to be fair, it was a “man clean”, which means there are hidden pockets of dust behind some objects) and my kitchen was sparkling.

I have some deep-seated anger management issues with my family out here. They have been playing the usual games, however I did think that they would have at the very least called Better Half to see how he was doing while I was away. Better Half spent ten days sans human contact (with the exception of the telephone with me), and had a raging bout of the flu. The poor man not only held down the fort (which includes taking care of the dogs and transspecies cat), but also performed our daily routines while suffering from a relentless cough and congestion. We took him up to the VA Clinic yesterday; he is now on antibiotics and a decongestant.

My shock and revulsion over their behaviour has been brewing for quite some time. This is the “final straw”; they are hereby dead to me. I can endure people taking issue with me, but I have never tolerated people treating my husband poorly.

On a new upbeat note, I do have a few pictures stored in the digital camera. The first two are of Pikes Peak, as seen from Mum’s porch in the early morning. The following two were taken while driving to mass on Sunday morning with Dad.

I took a quick tour of Peterson AFB on Sunday. The C-130 was parked on the flight line. The Canadian F-101 (Voodoo) was set in static display near the airplane museum on base. The final picture of this grouping is the building that houses Joint Intelligence Operations (US and CA).

This final grouping of photographs was taken on my last day in Colorado. Dad is blissfully researching the traffic cams to estimate our travel time to DIA. I crept into the office and Mum captured us on film. The third is Mum and I in her dining room. She was pleased that we caught a few of her oil paintings on film.

It is refreshing to be home. We have to take down our Christmas décor (Catholics keep everything on display until after January 6) and reorganize our home.

The television will be relocated to our downstairs living room, as we do not have enough company to justify keeping it out of sight. It once rested in a horrid 1980’s era wall unit, and that monstrosity will have to go back to our living room. I would like to purchase a more up-to-date piece eventually.

My office will be converted back into an OFFICE, rather than a “family room” to better foster a creative environment in which I can write. I do miss my sizeable vintage desk but I shall make do with whatever we can find in a second-hand store.

The New Year is starting out well!

Mum Update: she had her post-operative check this afternoon; everything is healing well.


Manitou and The Spice of Life, plus haunts!

My morning commenced with a long anticipated trek to Manitou Springs, where our dear friends Michael and Doug have operated their gourmet ingredients emporium for the past fourteen years.

Their establishment, The Spice of Life, is a marriage of rustic and eclectic pulled together with keen gay insight. The atmosphere varies with the seasons; however one can always find something exotic waiting for them.

Michael and Doug bustle behind the worn aqua green counter, two blurs of energy as they cook a quick breakfast omelet or two or weigh out their quality teas and spices. The clatter of dishes in the sink blends with the gentle him of the industrial espresso machine. A healthy aroma of coffee and good eats grace the air and Michael’s homemade soup simmers softly on the burner, making all of our mouths water in anticipation of lunch.

Patrons greet each other enthusiastically, sitting gaily around the scrubbed wooden tables nestled in front of the shelves (upon shelves!) of imported and unique products. It is not uncommon for a total stranger to receive an invitation to sit with a group of regulars; if you wish to know the pulse of Manitou, you can often gauge it by the tone of conversation at the Spice of Life.

Today the talk focuses on the recent minimum wage increase as well as the eternal debate regarding the weird Colorado weather. A robust gentleman chats animatedly with a frail older man while they devour their breakfast eggs and German chocolate flavored coffee. The bell tinkles and a pair of businesswomen graces our presence. Both are new to The Spice of Life, and both came with hearty appetites. They locate an empty table near the front display windows and Doug bustles out with their meal. They find themselves moving their chairs around and joining the two gents, laughing over some common topic. No one is alone when they are among “friends”.

This entire shop, 1100 square feet, is roughly the same size as my house, and it is filled with good memories for me. Everything started fourteen years ago by a couple with a dream – in a retail space that was smaller than most guest bathrooms. The years have been kind to my dear friends. They both retain their handsome features and good humour. Their son, Zach, is now twelve years old, and stands nearly as tall as Doug. Better Half and I can both recall the years before his birth.

We catch up on news, chatting about Russ the Old Mayor (now retired and living as a Snow Bird in Florida), the economy, and life in general. It feels as if no time has passed, as if we struck up conversation exactly where we had left off over two and a half years ago.

The summer tourism trade keeps Michael and Doug hopping, while the winter regulars provide enough income to get them by. Manitou has always been a tourist town packed with shops hocking Native America art and mineral jewelry. It has a flavor all its own and, much like The Spice of Life, it embodies the very essence of diversity. Young Businessmen mix with aging bikers and hippies (authentic hippies from the 1960’s.) Smartly dressed toddlers run along the sidewalk behind their parents, pausing to look inside a shop window to smile at the Native American child waving to them from behind the wares. Grunge college kids, taking a break from their classes as CC, loiter on park benches while lamenting the smoking ban and start of the new semester. This is life in Manitou.

I nibble my hefty cinnamon roll and lament that this would be an ideal place to set up my laptop in order to finish my book. The Spice of Life has always caused my creative juices to flow. I fell as if I have “come home” to the welcome embrace of family. Alas, poor Better Half! He pines away back in Ohio.

$80 and twenty pounds of spices and teas later, I finish my coffee refill and savor my last cherished moments here. Michael has given me all sorts of advice regarding the operation of a coffee shop (Better Half and I are contemplating opening our own in Steubenville.) I kid that I am well under my $500 budget, and Douglas offers to sell me an “Authentic” Spice of Life pen for $420. I make my farewells, hold back my tears, and wander off into the cool afternoon sunshine. I have missed the Spice Guys!

There is not much else that I want to see in Manitou, and I head towards the post office (all of the things that I bought have been shipped back to Ohio, as I did not want to chance airport security tomorrow.) After completing my business there, I get back in the car and make my way home.

Nostalgic pangs strike me as I head up Colorado Avenue. I spent eighteen years of my life in Colorado. Most of it was fantastic, some of it was depressing, and a small portion was quite bitter. I reflect on my old friends, particularly those that are no longer with us, such as Squeaky, Jim Lamp, Jona, Big James, Big T, Gwenny, and even “Grandma” Lorna. Some have succumbed to AIDS or drug addiction, while others died from other health woes. Only Jim was taken from us via homicide. These are my stomping grounds, my last bastion of youth; I can not resist visiting my old neighborhoods.

I pass our last house, Chestnut Cottage, and laugh at its current dilapidated state. The new tenants have done nothing for the property, although I am quite pleased to see that both sets of neighbors, (Joni and Jim, and Frank and Cindy) are still in residence. I do not stop here. There is more to see.

I wind towards downtown Colorado springs, taking back streets and alleys. Here is The Carriage House, where Rhonda nearly electrocuted herself on a massive bundle of live wires. There is Vermijo house, which was Better Half and my first home rental together. I pass Counterpoint, marveling that the preschool is now gone (the old house on the corner still stands – so many good years there! Better Half and I lived in the basement unit when we were first dating.) I look at the three places where I lived on Weber Street. I pass the Bijou Bungalows. I become lost in my own personal history. T&L Market, named for proprietors Tom and Lisa, is now Little Market. Rob Zombie’s apartment building has been refurbished. Robnoxious’ old pad has burnt to the ground.

I do not visit Glen Eyrie, nor Garden of the Gods. I opted to skip them in order to have more time to spend retracing my youthful steps. So many vivid recollections!

I pass Fountain Creek and laugh as I recall a very cold March when our Mattie jumped into the lake to chase the ducks. Better Half almost had to go in after her. I remember our paleo dig at the creek with our exchange student, Vlad. I visit nearly every old haunt that Better Half and I shared, so great is my longing for him. The Starbucks where he laughed and accidentally spat his hot chocolate on the window (the rather stupid blonde sitting outside actually ducked.) The game shop run by Ty. St. Mary’s Cathedral. Acacia Park. Dr. Finky’s.

I sit in the car entranced as I look at the school playground where I once took Meghan and Bobby. I helped raise them. Never an “Auntie Toni”, I was their paternal mentor. I attended their school conferences, built a bicycle for Bobby, conducted science experiments with them in the apartment kitchen, got them both through a rather vicious bout of Chicken Pox, and taught them both how to read. I was Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. I was chauffeur. I bathed them, dressed them, put them to bed at night and woke them up in the mornings. People often thought that their mother and I were dating, as I was for all practical purposes the children’s father figure. No, dear Readers, Droolie was simply my best friend. She was “mental” and had her own dependency issues. She eventually married, and decided that I was no longer a valid thing in her life – simply because I married Better Half. The friendship soured, and I cut my losses and called it a day. I miss my kids, greatly. I have only their mother to blame. Surrogate parents do not have rights in Colorado unless they are actually assigned guardianship. Needless to say, their lives took a downhill spiral shortly after Droolie divorced and remarried.

My afternoon ends and I return “home” to prepare the soup for dinner tonight. It has been an exhausting yet fulfilling day. This will be my last night in Colorado, and my last night to spend with my parents.

Mum Update:
She is healing very well!


Saturday Update

Saturday update:

Mum is still doing well. She is sore around her navel incision site, and feeling very fatigued. We have allowed her to nap for most of the day.

Dad and I went to the commissary this afternoon and picked up groceries for the week. It is just as noisy and crowded as before. We stopped for take-out Chinese on the way home.

Better Half is holding down the fort in Ohio. I miss my husband! I wrote him a quick email just now.

There really is nothing more to report today. Mum will stay home tomorrow; Dad is lector and we will attend the 9 AM mass. I will visit Michael and Doug (our old friends who own The Spice of Life; a lovely couple) on Monday.

I apologize for the scatter-brained entry today. I am simply exhausted! My pain level is hitting a "9". The blurry snapshot is of Dad and myself in the kitchen. (I do not normally wear make-up; Monday will be the exception as I want to look absolutely fabulous!)

Colorado Update

Mum update:
I am exceptionally pleased with the results of Mum’s laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Her surgeon’s skill is apparent in regard to how little pain she is experiencing. The procedure itself is minimally invasive (I underwent it in 2001) so we will not have to worry about caring for a large abdominal wound over the next few days. Mum is recovering nicely, with the exception of her voice. Her day began with boundless energy, however she did “crash” into a lengthy nap around 2 PM.

Weather update:
We had snow overnight and I was incapable of getting out and about today. Better Half has had to make due with consistent rain in OH, so I have included a picture of the sidewalk by the front porch (Mum’s house.) Although it will be in the “single digits” tonight, we are anticipating plenty of sunshine tomorrow. Colorado is the only state in which one must wear shorts and a parka in order to survive the weather changes.

Better Half update:
My house is still standing. The dogs have not thrown any wild parties, although the transspecies cat (the cat which considers itself a dog) has been wearing a lampshade for most of the afternoon. My handsome Better Half completed some yard work (i.e. dog shit removal) yesterday, and has managed to get our office cleaned. I am quite proud of him!

In other news:
My fabulous friend Michael sent out a copy of “Kate: the woman who was Hepburn”, by William J. Mann. He arranged for Mr. Mann to sign the copy – a spectacular surprise for me! I have spent a very serene evening reading about one of my favorite actresses as the snow drifts down outside. My God, this book blows me away.

Being back at home:
I really am enjoying my stay in Colorado, although I do almost feel like a teenager again.

I was not a “horrible teen”. My mother and I had our share of arguments (as all Italian mothers and daughters do) yet I never reached that phase where I hated my parents. My upbringing was rather European; I am a dutiful and proper daughter. Mohawks, leather and combat boots aside, I was never so ugly as to put my needs above those of my parents’. Coming home is therefore a very joyful thing.

I have been blessed with gifted parents. They have never dwelt on negative things. Should my mother mention my hair or weight, it would be out of love for me. She has focused on my positive attributes, praising my decision to grow my hair out. My father and I share a very dry and sarcastic humour, which has allowed us both to endure the stress over Mum’s surgery. We talk, as a family, and our discussions can cover a variety of topics. We “dish” theatre, church, God, social trends, etc. We can thrash out science and literature. We laugh our asses off at the nose dive the entertainment industry has taken (there really is nothing but crap on TV at night.) I find it comforting.

Nearly two decades have passed since I have lived with my parents. My childhood home is back in California, so coming to stay with them is not nearly as nostalgic as it could be. I find myself chasing Ghosts of Toni. The plaster casting of my toddler hand rests upon Mum’s bedroom wall. Pictures that I drew long ago are tucked here and there in the other rooms. I can reach out and pick up small knickknacks that I gave to them over the course of thirty-five years, and (strangely) I can recall what I was thinking when I selected each one.

I am composing this while sitting in their office. A lifetime of memories surrounds me like the warmest of downy comforters. Playbills from our various shows are displayed in glass frames. Bookcases overflowing with Dad’s technical manuals, Mum’s plays, and other media stand sentinel over my airbed. I can curl up in bed at night, reach out and caress the phantoms of my youth.

Where is that girl with the curly hair that used to run her Matchbox cars along the bookcase shelves? Where is the tiny tomboy that would sit quietly for hours at countless rehearsals? My stuffed toys, frilly dresses (ugh), and school work are packed away in boxes and hidden in my own basement. I can see the fleeting shadows of my childhood and I can still taste the joy that always surrounded me. Home was always Sanctuary. It was a place that enriched my mind while nourishing my soul.

They say that one can never go home again. I beg to differ. We can not return to the past but we can relive the positive things from it. My experience this week is proof of that.

Must wrap this up and get to bed. Better Half, I miss you terribly!

Pre and Post-Surgical Update

I am attempting to catch up on the activities over the last few days. Sadly, my efforts are falling very short of my actual goal.

A brief synopsis:

I arrived safely at DIA on Monday morning, and am pleased to report no lost luggage. Mum chanced the lengthy drive up from Colorado Springs (she experiences severe panic attacks in traffic) and we had a delightful trip back “home”. The area has become far more overcrowded than when I left.

Mum’s pre-op appointment was on Tuesday. Her surgeon, Dr. Fischer, is a charming man with an admirable patient rapport. He took the time to reassure Mum as well as rechecked her medication needs.

Yesterday was Mum’s surgery, which was delayed due to heavy operatory use. She did rather well and had no reactions to the anesthetic. They placed her on the 9th floor, post-recovery.

Poor Mum. Not only was she not permitted to leave her bed to walk after surgery yesterday (which helps get the lungs back in working order), but she was also given grief over liquid intake (she had written orders that liquids were permitted.) Her respiratory therapist did not turn up yesterday to explain the use of the device left at her bedside (thank God I recalled my own post-op experience with it). Her voice is hoarse and they would not provide her with any means to relieve it. She was not administered any pain medications, sans a single crushed-up Vicodin around 1700 last night. Her post-surgical abdominal cavity gas (which is to be expected after the procedure) was intense, and they did not provide her with any methods of relief.

By this morning, she was in a right agonizing state due to the night nursing team. Her O2 saturation levels were very; they recommended sending her home with a pony bottle. This is due, of course, to her not being able to exercise her lungs at all. She called several times, begging to be allowed to return home. It was time that I put my foot down.

I (as her MPOA) raised hell and the Second Coming this morning. I have dealt with hospitals for over fourteen years (Better Half has his own medical needs) as well as have working medical experience. I do not take lackluster patient care lightly. In other words, don’t fuck around and then expect me to give a hopeless shrug and a clueless look. I was polite up until the staff attempted to give me the “brush off”; I promptly began taking names and ripping assholes. One can accomplish much when one speaks in a polite, professional manner. One needn’t scream or talk down to people. You simply must let your displeasure be known by using a very stern tone of voice. Needless to say, shortly after my call, the nursing supervisor was in Mum’s room making full apology for the mistreatment Mum had to endure last night. They unhooked her and allowed her to walk the halls. The respiratory therapist was at her side 30 minutes later, testing her levels. She was given a chance to shower. These are little things, priceless and cherished, that allow one to feel like a human being again. No one messes with my mommy.

Dad left to retrieve her from the hospital, and I have a pot of holistic chicken soup on the stove. He has been a good man through all of this, taking each situation in stride while maintaining his sense of humour.

I leave you with a few photographs of the Courtyard and its Christmas lighting. (Better Half, I miss you!)


Some reflections on Colorado and Colorado Springs

This is a state built upon pretenses: we can not be anybody unless we have a fancy home and vehicle. Having lived in California for half of my life, I can assure you that the Natives who move to Colorado are the ones who could not hack it in California. They are the plastic cast-offs of a plastic scene, embroiled in their desires to be seen as cultured while battling the shackles of their own blue collar upbringing. These are not the true Fruits and Nuts of the Wacky State. They are the crumbs oft found in the bottom of the trail mix bag. They live on credit cards and broken dreams, purchase homes too expensive for their budgets, and drape themselves in what they think is high fashion. Nowhere but in Colorado can one find a women in her forties walking around in torn-apart Birkenstocks, Route 66 jeans (ala K-mart) and a Tahari knit sweater (covered in fuzz balls), all the while reeking of cheap Tommy Girl. Said woman then climbs into her 2007 Jaguar XKR convertible and putters off to her $380K (1,100 sq ft) home, which is nestled between the cookie cutter copies of her neighbor’s homes, not more than eight feet between the buildings. Welcome to Colorado: land of the misfits.

We can forget all about educating them to Victor & Rolf, Bvlgari or Jivago. White Shoulders, Obsession, and other “tried and true” scents are the norm. There are more Prada knockoffs around here than at a hooker convention. The clothing is a mixed bag: Perry Ellis might be on every street corner, but you will not see anyone wearing a Stefano Genovese unless they are some lost businessman trapped here on a layover. I highly doubt any of these people have touched a Hugo Boss suit, let alone heard of the name. Versace? What is that? (While I am on that subject, I saw an exquisite Versace men’s two button single breasted suit that I would simply adore seeing on Better Half. It would compliment his skin tone perfectly, lending a steel grey cast to his eyes. I thought about mugging the kindly gentleman who was wearing it, but airport security would have locked me in chains.)

Where was I?

“You were dogging the Coloradoans, Aut.”

Yes, how about those Denver Broncos?

Bah, I could lament the obtuse townsfolk all night. I am reasonably confident that I gave you an accurate enough picture of their (lack) of actual taste. I do not have any problems with people who do not recognize what fashion is (I myself am clueless as to women’s fashion.) I do have a problem with people who pretend that they fit the “rich bitch” bill, behave as if they are God’s gift to the “scene” and have not even so much as a scrap of common sense – while working at Arbys and possessing an income level that qualifies them for public assistance. Expensive clothing does not make one classy; appropriate attitude and poise do. Should I stuff a pig into an Armani Collezioni wool suit, it would still be a pig. This holds true of those who purchase to impress their neighbors. (Aut, do you own any expensive Italian suits? I do not. I drive a basic car, live in a lovely old home replete with older furniture and appliances, and only check my labels for the correct size. I am a lot happier for it too. I never have to bother with dry cleaning.)

January 2, Pre-op Appt at Penrose

I have precious little time to do a proper "update", so I shall leave you with a few pictures of Penrose Hospital in downtown Colorado Springs. I have included a view of Pikes Peak, the sidewalk (much of the snow has finally melted down), and four shots of the inner courtyard near the in-patient lab/main entrance. My cell phone camera does not do anything justice!


My New Year's Morning

Ah, the breakfast of champions. I happily sit in the Irish Pub that is located in the beautiful sprawl of the Pittsburgh International airport. It is my favorite of all airport restaurants, and not simple due to their lax policy on smoking. No where have I found a better deal on a hearty hamburger or traditional Irish fare, although today I have opted to feast upon a cinnamon raison bagel with cream cheese.

I have an affectionate spot in my heart for this airport. It is one of the few terminals where one is not acutely aware of the pressing crush of humanity. Wide breezeways provide gay avenues to stroll down, and the myriad of shops and restaurants keeps the traveler quite entertained (thought at this early hour of 6 AM, few businesses are open.) Pittsburgh is one airport where one does not waste away once they journey past the security checkpoints.

My check-in was quite effortless today, as there were no long lines. I was able to select my seat, and anticipate basking in the surplus leg room. I am not afraid to fly; it is an adventure. Indeed, my only lament is being trapped next to a virgin passenger (one who has never flown), or perhaps being shackled with a gregarious businessman or granny. Dear Readers, you know that I am not a Morning Person.

I must pause to knock back some coffee and a Vicodin. I typed that with good intention; my bottle is stowed in my checked bag. Shit. Migraine and back pain aside, I shall persevere.

My thoughts roam back to the Airport outside the Irish Pub, and I am ticked to say they have a T. rex on display near the escalators. I will endeavor to take a picture upon my return from Colorado; it would be intriguing to see which cast it is. There is also a simply charming advertisement for the local Greyhound Rescue (Better Half, I promise to return home sans a new Fur Child) and a shadowbox display in honor of Mr. Rogers. Local talent, dear Readers.

Smoke if you got them, Autrice. I must try harder to pollute my lungs prior to boarding. Alas, poor Autrice! She must resort to matches, having made a 20 yard pass with her Cherished Lighter across the security line; Better Half makes for a good receiver. I failed to remember to tuck it into my bra (ladies, please remember this handy ploy – should they “wand” you, it will register as an “under wire”.)

I am quite pensive this morning. My mind dwells partially on my packing list (as I always overlook at least one Very Important Thing.) I also amused myself by recalling TFMM’s words the other day: “how do you sit with your legs closed? I tried it on the plane, and my muscles were aching.” My response was, of course, “I don’t know. I don’t sit like that.” I attempted it just now, and somewhere in Canada a man is rolling over in his sleep with sore legs.

Better Half has just called to inform me as to his safe arrival at home. Thank God. My family out here in Ohio was “too busy” to shuttle me out. I have determined that I will surely write them off upon my return. We had several cousins visiting from out of town, and I have a plethora of cousins living in the area, yet not one of the group was able to provide me transport last week in order to pick up my Vue from the dealership in Robinson. Aah have ahlways relied on the kindness of strangers.

Oh Autrice, stop with the southern thing. LOL

I am not a morning person, do recall! I swore off mornings when I was deemed Too Facetious To Be Allowed. Truly I am an obnoxious person before 1 PM. All my friends (unfortunately) are also Afternoon People. I would love to call someone and prattle on for an hour. Better Half has retreated back to the toasty cocoon of our bed sheets, or I would surely bother him. TTFM and Spouse are probably recovering from a fabulous New Year’s Party (I am absolutely dying to hear all about it, given that my night ended at 8 PM last night.) Ox and Spider are out of country and thus out of cell range. Figgy works until 3 AM, and she refuses to participate in any social matter until at least 3 PM.

Ta for now. I must prepare to board. Happy New Year to you all!