Traffic Noise

Since awakening before sunshine slid across a kind breakfast table, my day is full of sticky noises. Trumpeting television commentaries, conversational corneting groups, strings of screeching birds, and unidentifyable thumping sounds from afar are sounds that have remained orchestrally mixed on my inner sound stage. One after another, these are being added to create a symphonic score as of yet complete.

… Aaand, not done because I have yet to add one final instrument staff: traffic noise. All day, everywhere, car clamor has been present in all its forms. To finish off my overuse of alliteration, hubcap hubbub can’t be bumped to the burm of any road on which I find myself today. While on pedestrian footpaths or drive-on pavements, trucks and autos are exhausting so much racket, my composition is deteriorating at the moment.

There are a lot of vehicles on the roads. Big and small. Wide and narrow. Pick any fun “Sesame Street” song with happy adjectives, and I bet any combination of two would describe a desputt-puffer I am seeing today. For some reason, most have either some loud, objectionable horn that must be heard .003 seconds after the turning of a green light, or muffler disguised as ten invisible tubas. The noises are, well, disruptive and irritating.

I hear creaky car doors opening, blaring radio music from unstationary cars whizzing by, and stationary – but active – jack hammers beside dump trucks moving earth around small orange cones. There are yell-able drivers two feet away from, apparently, non-interested passengers, revving engines from bouncy cars, tires grovelling humbly over small shale in parking lots, and “spatch” curb sounds from a red Ford truck tire too close when parallel parking.

Yep, traffic noise. A non-harmonious grouping of sounds in my brain gathered not all at once, but over a few short hours. Minutes, on the positive side, I should appreciate.

People are out doing “them”. Their “thing”, whatever that is for today. Heck, I am. How boring it would be as the lone driver on an abandoned highway? The people and places I see are interesting and engaging. My hope would be they find conversation with me equally enjoyable and productive.

The go-about humans driving around are headed somewhere, coming from a place, too. Presumably, the vehicle they are in is a safe zone for thoughts and feelings, regardless of what’s going on around them. Vehicles are, in a lot of ways, second homes. Mine is. I have food, music, pen and paper, boxes, money, some clothesπŸ™„, extra medicine for emergencies, bottled water, and blankets.

Oh, and a busted up lower front bumper that, er, makes one hell of a racket when making a hard right turn.

So, I guess there’s no immunity for me when traffic noise is discussed. Today, all the loco-commotion bothers me, however. Around every turn: traffic noise in some form. Ugh.

Did you ever have a day like this when some specific irk got to you? Fortunately, I found a quiet corner in which to sit and tap in my thoughts.

Oh, wait.

Of course, I’ll just finish this up now. My luck was short lived. Time to add another instrumental line to an ever increasing orchestral load. A tumbler just blumbled up the street! I may not be able to conduct myself properly if this continues.

Let’s assume he’s headed somewhere to rehearse his part. Yeah, that’s it.

Reasons for Unanswered Prayers

With the opportunity to read a friend’s blog post on Facebook last night, I affirmed what was already known: all of us have life stories unique to us.

She’s one who’s been emotionally in and out of both a tragic, untimely loss and a questioning faith life. Personal struggles, by her own public admission, were difficult to push through at times, but being here – today – is evidence of her ability to overcome. Her story. Unique to her.

Is it, though?

After reading the post last night, I sent her the following in support (and I don’t think she’d mind me sharing):

“Your journey is interesting. Read it last night. Keep pen to paper. People need to know what must be said – from all of us who live life surviving in the lanes they do … and need to understand “being alone” there doesn’t exist. Well done!”

Awkwardly written, of course, because my mind and hands were semi-preoccupied with a half-peeled banana, 3 chips-ahoys, ham and tomato sandwich, and diet pepsi surrounding this phone as I typed with two less-then agile fingers. She needed the support, regardless of the uneasiness of the prose. When someone bares their past like she did publicly with class, the pupils in the room eyeballing the effort must applaud in return…

… Not insincerely by many means. Her words were effective.

Questioning a God is no small task. In the midst of silence, it’s fair to ask, “Where are you?”. Asking for connections to a specific relative – when none was possible – was a daunting query in the midst of that elusive emotion called, “love”. Unexpected life situations being dumped into her lap causing plans to change immediately when a path forward, “just yesterday”, was the right thing to do.

All of these written in a shared blog to highlight a life, now, on the right path. A story being told with the following beginning:

“On October 26, 2020, I sat down to write my next post for my new Blog. I intended to write about my unique and incredible relationship with my dad, but at the last minute I decided to write about my journey to, from and back …”

Ending with:

“…And I do believe there are reasons for unanswered prayers.”

It is her story. She survived in a lane others are driving in now. This is why her story, and others, need to be shared.

Stories are important. Non-fiction, and fiction for sure. Both help us think our way through what we are living through at the moment and, perhaps, solve life’s little buggers … and, maybe, some of the bigger problems.

I don’t know a lot of things. However, it was nice for me to read her “Super Long Post” even after the fair warning πŸ˜‰πŸ˜Š. Struggles, sadness, and loss are all parts of this spinny planet and we have to find our way across the rough water in front of us at times.

Having word bridges to walk over together – built by friends – makes the journey a bit easier.

Thanks, ASW. Keep on writing!

Piecing Life Together

Thirty-two pasted up on seven walls. Vertical paneled partitions holding up thousands of glued pieces – each a part of individual displays. Pictures attached not only to wood paneling, but also to memories a mother left for her family.

She enjoyed this hobby. “Puzzle assembly”, simply stated. Somewhat simply understood from my viewpoint; however, I couldn’t put together hours with the shifting around of little pieces of cardboard – while figuring out which nub goes into which notch. If involved, once the straight-edge borders and four corners were set, I could very easy call the puzzle, “done”, and walk away.

Anyone who is an enigmatologist – as you may be – is certainly welcome to engage in puzzling. My mom did. Crosswords, word games, Trivial Pursuit, Pinochle, Games Magazines, etc … all of those (+) were, … err, fair game in her world. I could join in with her – except these oodles of pieces, boxed-up picture puzzle games aren’t my thing at all. And, yes, picture puzzles are games. Dump, sort, and sit for hours games.

I didn’t care for the huge, hand-sized, biggie, six-piece alphabet puzzles in first grade. The plastic, round, straight, or oblong “learn your shapes” jam into holes matching games didn’t impress me, either. Anything early in my life that suggested, “fit this into that”, I kinda told to hit the road.

So, Thirty-two puzzles. There were more, but they fell off. Mom’s interest never fell off, however. I can see her sitting in her dining room chair, hours at a time, during times when her mind needed to focus on a thousand little things other than one, or two, bigger problems. Diversionary, of sorts. Those thousand little pieces – working toward one large picture – was better than starting with the one large problem then breaking it down into smaller pieces. Her process, I guess.

It worked for her. During a five year cancer journey, this worked. She never complained that I saw. Privately, probably. Tears never flowed that I saw. Privately? Again, probably. These puzzles represent her life before, and during, cancer. Of all, the Mozart one is my favorite. Most are Charles Wysocki prints, as she was enamored by his style and class.

I don’t spend a lot of my time wandering through this room looking around this familial gallery. I should, though. One per day would give me a month of reflection upon a mom who would still be here if cancer wouldn’t have ended her life too early. It did, and that’s the way all her pieces finally came together.

At some point, these puzzles will need to be removed. Just when, is anyone’s guess. Mom used industrial strength glue on the backing and the double-stick tape to the wall is ridiculously tight. It’s gonna take some mighty panel-bending and puzzle fandangery to get these unfastened.

Seems like mom left us the biggest puzzler of all. For now, there’s no need to rush.

I never liked to do puzzles in the first place. I did, and do, love my mom. So, I’ll enjoy these while I still can. They’re pieced together and just as beautiful as she was. Memories and all.

Golly, Dolly

What a face! Dolly the Shepherd lookin’ at me with the same expression most folks find available when seeing me scamper about in my crazy shoes. She was pretty sure my zany ways – jamming buns, frozen raw meat, and coolers into a van across the street from her – matched what ideas she had about me in her astute, shepherd brain. The crooked smile. Those arched eye brows. I’ve seen it all before … many times from folks’ faces, too.

Not to say it’s a bad thing. I like to think, “wonderment”, or perhaps, “fascination”, just to keep my wits intact. Dolly, on the other paw, may have thought, “What the hell is he doing?… I’m across the street, looking all cute and adorable, yet, he’s unsuccessfully attempting to maniacally run around – doing that van-jam thing … Not really paying attention to me.”

True ‘dat. I was busy. Life in the prep-lane for a 530 student, out-of-town, (what turned out to be a literal stuck-in-the-mud) event took a lot of mental energy out of already stagnant, slow steps. Focus had to be forward, not so much sideways toward that leashed bundle of spunk across a happy path of asphalt.

All she had to do was sit there and make sense of it all. After looking at the picture hastily snapped, I started to understand why her particular expression easily appeared. Her life is simple: sit there and look delightful. My life is complicatingly unlovely at times. Our roads intersected at that moment.

“He’s not over here petting me! I am the giver of joyful moments … That silly seller of delicious delicacies is rushing around too much and needs to get over here – like now – and rub down some fur, itch a little ear fuzz, skritch some nozzle neck whiskers, and talk some lovin’ to me! .”

She’s not wrong. After getting home at 11:35 p.m. from a mud-soaked, less-then stellar event, I should have – hours earlier – drained more captivating canine time out of my reserves than frenetic beef frank foolishness. Golly, Dolly … I didn’t know. You were right.

A few minutes would not have changed a thing.

Isn’t this a lesson for all of us? “Too busy doing the big to appreciate the small.”

My “big” was stuffing a van full of product – something I can do backwards, blindfolded, and with a medium-size monkey tied to my back, playing Czardas on the harmonica. The “small” could have been taking a few moments to walk across the street and pet a kind, wonderfully propped up, goofy smiling, german shepherd …

Moments, right?

These may not be four paws in your life. For pause, look carefully. They may not be deliciously grinning dogs that cause you to stop what you’re doing and appreciate a “small”. Your “bigs” are really consuming. Mine are. I’m almost always ridiculously ahead of myself. Takes work to see these smalls AND act upon them.

Find some smalls. Appreciate them. The bigs will always be around for you to fret over, with, and among.

If peoplefolk I see continue to fuzzy eyeball me, chances are excellent that won’t be a small moment for me to scratch under their chin. Although that confused look is common, it is guaranteed to only work when dispatched from dogs.

Whatever you decide to do is your business for sure. I like dogs, words, music, and thingies crossing my path making life just a little bit more ease-able.

Dolly would be open to a pet, or two, if you’re free sometime. I doubt you’d get the look I got; however, you may be as crazy as I. In that case, she’ll be cuter than ever. Hope you can handle the overload of delightfulness.

11’s Speak Volumes

So many movies have flickered across my eyeball. From cinema popcorn butter dripping down a whisker-less “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” chin … through my awkward, “Yo, Adrian!” years … to the most recent ( a DVD viewing of “Somewhere in Time” I finally got toπŸ™„) …, over 1,000 movies had to carve out some comfortable sofa and squeaky cinema seat entertainment time. At LEAST 1,000 – if not more.

In-theater viewing, VHS, DVD, streaming service … All forms of delivery and ranges of interest – with or without exceptional acting – held hostage a percentage of time in my life I will never get back. Some, I do regret. Most, not. At the risk of offending anyone, I won’t mention dislikes or fascinations. There were only two I can recall where I walked my disappointed ticket stub out the door after only a half-hour. No regrets at all with VHS’s or DVD’s, however. Those were only one stop click away from a refrigerator snack visit that didn’t require a quick, snarky comment to a teenager behind the counter on the way through.

Yep, a ton of movies. Very similar to your experience, I am quite sure. This is where we part ways, … Probably. Why? Because if I took a poll of my blog readers, a large percentage of you had a certain movie flicker across YOUR eyeballs at some point that did not appear in my couldn’t-be-anymore-less-interested pupils. I was barely aware this movie existed. Vaguely, I remember 1984 as a year … let alone a year when a movie, I didn’t care much about anyway, was released.

It came up in passing during a conversation today.

“Herbie, the Love Bug”? βœ”οΈ, “Star Wars” Trilogy”? βœ”οΈ, “Mary Poppins”?βœ”οΈ, “The Matrix”?βœ”οΈ, “Fatal Attraction”?βœ”οΈ, “American President”βœ”οΈ, “When Harry Met Sally”?βœ”οΈ, “Godfather” Trilogy?βœ”οΈ… We could continue to check all the boxes together with most of those iconic movies over the years, right? This one in the projector today? I don’t believe we’re cine-patico.

Today, as I alluded, the following question was asked of me: “You’ve never seen ______?” Now, before I insert the actual movie title, understand it IS a movie I should have watched at some point in my life. It was assumed, correctly so, that I should have known a popular idiom from the movie – seeing as how I claim to be some kind of musician.

I should know some things. Movie quotes chief among them. In conversation, these provide wisdom, insight, understanding, humor, and levity when all else fails. All of us know some, right? Who doesn’t throw in a, “Stella!!, once in a while, or a, “Go ahead, make my day!”, when provoked by a good-natured, friendly pal-poke? Add it all up, and I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore when the query was presented.

I’ll get to the actual idiom in a minute. Before I do, there’s a certain amount of dirty laundry I need to tumble into this recounting of events.

After the late morning convo which included a two minute education on the cinematic value of volume control as a 10% notch over the norm (I’ve come to understand), I dialed up a load of laundry. What appeared, coincidentally so, in the dryer bin – as man-delicates and other fabricated items were pulled from their toasty, warm cocoon? – These crispy critters:

Eleven of them! Well, a $5 plus 6 $1 bills ,… $11 total, to be exact. Not enough to get into a movie house these days, but plenty to tap into a sense of needing to check my pockets more often … and a significantly higher awareness that something odd was strangely sticky in the aisle of a numerical talkie universe.

Spoken randomly in conversation, “Have you heard turn it up to eleven?”, this double-one stilted into my late morning, then again in tangible, barterable currency.

“THIS is Spinal Tap”, and for future reference, my financial lifeline amp should frequently, “Go up to 11”, for no other reason than the mere mention seems to produce money out of thin, warm air.

Of course, it is entirely possible a correlation, or causation, between the two 11’s doesn’t exist, or does and I don’t understand the underlying principles at play. Based on my exhaustive research πŸ˜‰, I do believe Nigel would agree with this conclusion.

Ah, heck. Maybe everything is going to remain pretty much the same, anyway? Another workaround of the quote is, “Things are essentially the same, but seen as different (due to) because of mislabeling”.

I did some Rhodes research (google) on the number 11. Numerology says eleven is inspiring, artistic and spiritual. Makes sense to me, although, no amount of advertising 37 years ago inspired me to nestle into crunchy, used, fake velvety seats to watch a Rob Reiner film. My mind, at the time, was too far into other issues and events to consider tapping into a metal band’s problems.

Call me one needing a small urge on the backbone? Ok, that’s fair. I do know that $11 in today’s world will buy me at least 20 more used DVD’s of movies I have yet to watch – and must. I feel this is necessary in the event a conversation comes up again where cinematic quotes are a necessary, affirmative tie-in.

… Especially if I can yank some Washingtons from the dryer a few hours later. If only I knew this was the secret to riches earlier in my life.

Bump and Stop

Yeah, I felt like looking away, too. At the very bottom edge, Murphy had enough of the bumps and stops in life as well. Experiences – especially those four letter words ahead – have been too prevalent in both our lives lately.

I had to stop my normal, everyday maneuvers a while ago and do tiring, but satisfying activities for multiple weeks on end. I also rode over legions of unexpected bumps until my human, emotional underside wore through a pretty thick pair of wrangled genes. Murphy? Well, he did have some feeding times that were off a bit.

A medical crisis set life aside as care for a loved one took precedence over all other labors, hobbies, and toils.

Thing is, there were no warning signs for months during that difficult drive … on challenging roads. Every experience was an unexpected turn of events.

During our pleasant walk this evening, however, Murphy and I had at least two signs. We knew to sidestep the slight tar implosion to our left and walk cautiously on the sidewalk to the right. Watching for traffic at the four-way ahead was easy-peasy – even without that red octagonal, familiar sign – because this is what responsible dog walkers do who don’t want to bring harm to themselves or their leash-alongs.

I can do without unexpected bumps and stops for now. My limit has been reached and, possibly, breached.

The everyday expected is ok. Any obvious, conventional, everyday sign alerting my living, vehicular being to an anticipated knot in a string of roads ahead is fine. Similarly, if I must put the brakes on to avoid risk, so be it.

We can go for so long before there’s a break down along the side of the road, right? The stops and starts after each bump in the road – while caring for someone – is really difficult. It is what’s done, though, because love is involved … and we’ll do whatever, whenever, for as long as necessary. I am not the first, certainly not the last, and claim no expertise in the matter of care-taking of a loved one.

I also know it takes a partnership with family members and professionals to make it work, too. With all the struggle along the road that was, a specific, dedicated, small group of us never gave up.

With all that was, the end came and I am tired.

Bump and stop signs – better yet, the actual unexpected pesky projections and nettlesome negations that could veer this body off-road -should park themselves in a garage for a few months. I’d appreciate it until life returns back to more normal road conditions … If that’s even possible.

As for Murphy, he just needs to take a walk with his fuzzy brother-buddy and not think too much, anyway.

You … take a walk. Watch out for signs that should keep you safe. They may not be bumps or stops, but at least you’re headed in the right direction. Deep breaths, friendly hellos or waves from a neighbor, crackling, crisp water over rocks in a stream, or breezes through bendy tree limbs … to name a few.

Or, helping a loved one through the most challenging times of her life. This can be the most unexpectedly challenging, tiring, incredibly difficult things to do … and also something that resets life, overall, in the right direction.

I’d do what I did all over again, but wouldn’t wish the pain to return to a body whose fight couldn’t overcome cancer’s eventual outcome. You bet I am tired and don’t need any more surprises right now.

… Now, unless that surprise is a Powerball win of a few million. That’s an unexpected bump in the road I could tolerate and drive a long distance without stopping.

Guess Murphy would need a ride, though.

Last Daisies

Angelic music from her voice, as I accompanied her, moved me to tears at times. Familiarity with the grace in every Greta-graphite picture I witnessed etched a memory into my soul. Through her patience, she loved, admired, and respected all that surrounded my life. With strength, she fought through until her body could no longer handle what appendiceal cancer threw at her.

Tuesday evening, Greta died. A very significant part of my life slipped away from me, … from us.

I miss her. Those three words have been repeating over and over in my head since Tuesday evening. No amount of distracting sunshine walks or meals with friends these past 24 hours seem to ease the pain. Brain tears have been happening behind my mask of pushing through the “need to be dones” in my life.

This is what death looks like. I don’t appreciate not having Greta to take care of today, or tomorrow, or … ever again. It’s painful to know there’s no more of that beautiful voice in front of my piano. Loss of this breadth is almost incomprehensible.

I’ve had loss, but not like this. It’s surreal. I’m on an unending carousel of memories with Greta. On this ride, we’ve been experiencing fun, exciting things together. Lunches at SAMA, picnics, Doug’s Dawgs events, pizza with my dad, … Seems like if we weren’t rehearsing, food was a major contributor to our experiences?πŸ€”.

Life with her was an unending, somewhat unpredictable, fascinating twist of energy, love, compassion, heart, and fun.

Without her, it seemed as though that mix was no longer possible when I sat alone late Tuesday night on a dark patio.

Then, a few hours ago, I walked by where Greta made her graceful last curtain call from this world. Over on stage left stood the last vase of daisies I bought for her. She loved daisies. There in that vase, supporting cast members stood applauding a life filled with what she loved: her dogs, Rex and Murphy, music, art, her immediate family, close friends … and me.

Yes, me. That piano guy she decided to fold into her life with, maybe, two years to live. We got less together. But, overall, I got significantly more.

In a nutshell, I have a better understanding of who I am. My personal growth, with Greta’s tugs and halts, found a path forward. As a few stubborn rocks took some time to navigate around, she waited (somewhat) patiently for my opinions and behaviors to change. Some did, others didn’t. There are live-alongs in my life that will be with me forever.

In the end, I am a changed man because Greta took the time to love me.

We were all changed if Greta smiled in our direction. Our lives will not be the same without her here. Tuesday evening, the world lost a beautiful person. Our community lost a gifted singer and artist. Her family lost a daughter, aunt, and sister.

I lost a connection. A partner in that magical, mysterious, musical world where a pianist and vocalist could live without fear, anxiety, and judgement. A lunch date who helped me laugh at myself … and at her. She was a lover of my life and one who accepted my love of her life.

Yes, absolutely incomprehensible right now. I loved Greta. Her contribution to my life will never be forgotten.

If reading this as a friend of Greta’s, may your memories be wonderfully fulfilling as mine … and may her love for you extend far beyond the horizon of every daisy patch you see.

Greta, we miss you. Spread your energy to the world – be that guiding light to others as you were to me. Sing. Echo your songs across the cosmos. Paint the skies your favorite shade of purple for us sometime.

You were, simply the best – and still are. “Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking.”

I will every time I think of you, Greta. I most certainly will πŸŽ™οΈπŸŽΉπŸ’•

2O Seconds at Halfway

Canal Basin Park in Hollidaysburg, Pa. Push, “play”, to experience the halfway around ripples two dogs and I experience while fluffing our way through that park.

To them, Rex and Murphy, it’s another opportunity to sniff out new smells along a stone-ground walkway beside a brown, churned up waterway. For me, the halfway point river is simply that … a 50%, “been there, need to do more” point while walking said puppies. I look forward to the sound. Simple stones underfoot duetting with water nuzzling over rocks in the Beaverdam Branch of the Juniata River.

Halfway is halfway no matter how the walk is sliced up. Pretty sure Rex and Murphy’s math skills aren’t up to par, and time has little meaning, so their time/distance matrix has no relevance to four-pawed progression. Onward is all they care about. Walks are very important as a stress release inside their furry go-about bodies.

I like walking them. It has been a while since canine connections fabulously exited stress from my body as well. Years, actually. Shopan was the last to give me a refreshingly new leash on life. He lived a homophonically great life as a shepherd-collie-rottie mix at my piano feet – representing the masterful Frederic of Poland well.

These two? Kinda musical. Rhythmic paces under one’s white and black woolly paws, and the other’s velvety brown sweepers? Yeah, for sure. Before halfway finds its way into our path, Canal Basin offers us sights to spur our intrigue. Living a few miles away from this park, I never took the time to walk around and read plaques so well placed among the sound filled breezes now appreciated during a pleasant walk with Doug in tow.

These are just two of the markers discovered. A Musical Garden? Holy Orchestral Chimes, Batman! How did I not know of this? The Amphitheatre has been around a while. Thankfully, I’ve attended concerts there. The stage, however, hasn’t experienced notes from my trombone slide, or imperfect piano fingers.

With my human body sleigh being towed , other sites nearly halfway include an original 4-wheeled Cradle and Track set and really big, orange, metally, complicated train pieces put together in such a way I will never understand.

An open soon-to-be loch of imaginary possibilities to our right – with its reservoir of tonal reach-outs past the halfway point – the three of us continued on our way. Two fur pullers and an adaptable tag-along headed toward the Reiser House – the home of a prominent butcher whose house was built at the Canal Basin site decades ago.

We exited across a plank foot bridge, clicking nails did the two scurry as this one silently Skechered. Three-quarters the way, by my estimation. Dogs, still no clue. Their smellers always on alert and pee markers finding every possible target, though.

The halfway sliver of time spent recording pleasing ripples of time meant nothing to them. Just a “paws” during another outing with Doug, the dog walker.

Ok, so I accept that role. I’ll also welcome the opportunity to walk them again, and again. No sense committing to anything halfway.

Unless, of course, halfway means standing beside waters rhythmically dancing over partner rocks. In that case, maybe next time two dogs and a guy will sit down for more than 20 seconds.

Find a halfway in your life. I doubt Rex and Murphy are available, but someone could meet you by the river sometime. Perhaps for more than 20 seconds, if you’d like. Wherever your halfway is, a river of calm is waiting. Don’t push to be 100% all the time. Enjoy the sites along the way.

Halfway is halfway no matter how your life is sliced up. There’s always more path ahead to explore. Go, now.

Candle Wax in the Moonlight

Photo Courtesy of Pamela and Travis Etters

The Bellagio fountains this isn’t. Sure reminds me of the time I stood in front of those magnificent, rhythmic cascades, however. Difference being, I was a lot younger then and peered over a spray of hallucinating, musical vapors in person … unlike the experience of seeing this picture appear in my Facebook feed a few days ago.

Penn State, Altoona campus. A quiet reflection pond at moonlight time caught in perfect frame by my friend, Travis. No comparison to Bellagio’s 15 or 30 minute interval experience, depending upon when you would happen to scoot by their Las Vegas hook and play casino. High energy, impersonal lights and spray vs. this calm dark, contrasting reach into each of our lives. Inviting, isn’t it?

I don’t visit PSU often. That campus is so beautiful – with groves of trees allowing duck families good-time afternoons and students shady respites from their young, forward-looking studies. Snippets of sunshine I’ve seen on occasion while walking through during a food event, heading to the chapel to keyboard a nuptial hand-in-hand, or attending a function inside the Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts.

None of those wound me around the reflecting pond, let alone at night. What moon forces kept me away from such masterfully crafted, deep orange hues ricocheting off a glistening pond into my eyes? Oh, yeah. Me. I was too busy doing something else, … not probably. For sure.

That’s the way life is. We can’t see all the beautiful stuff that’s out there when it happens. Some get missed. Thankfully, there are folks, like Travis, who recognize subtle shimering upon still waters. He saw the light of the moon across the sky, and tapped into your individual imagination … whatever that is for you.

For me, I am a huge fan of black contrasting blue in photographs. The deep monarch orange slightly arching across finely separates the two. Blue is the future and black is now. I see lines of improvement asking me to look forward, through problems and challenges, to the end lights shining as flames tipping wax off candles. Tapered fire to the moon. A blue future burning off any clouds of doubt …

… from a picture of a reflecting pond. Any imaginations are acceptable. Yours, mine, theirs.

This captured image is, to you, whatever you need it to be. Unlimited. It has been left up to you when tapped on a phone … and posted on Facebook. The moon will stay tucked away in the sky. Campus lights flicker every night as the sun goes to sleep. Millions of years don’t change cellestial habits or movements set in place.

I was moved, however. Yeah, this guy – who really hasn’t taken a stroll down through the Penn State, Altoona campus lately – was taken aback by the poetic, artistic photograph my fine friend took the other night.

In a word, stunning. I tip a candle to Travis’ reflecting eye for beauty. May we see in ourselves a future so much more than what 15 minutes of cascading, bedazzling pizzazz would do for us in front of the Bellagio.

Muted Footsteps Exiting the Capitol Hotel

I swiped this menu a while ago. Don’t remember when it happened, or why I felt the urge to break the law. Did I really, though? All that happened, in my humble opinion, was the conversion from an in-house menu to a take-out one by walking out the very familiar glass doors with it in my hand. Strange, in a way, because I never ordered unless I sat at the counter, a back room table, or in one of four red vinyl booths.

“I’m glad I have it, officer.”

Today, I heard they are closing … for good. May I offer up another not so humble opinion? This information really sucks their really awesome steak salads!!

I don’t know why the owner decided to close. Could be a (late) pandemic response or he is, simply, tired of running a hotel restaurant. Whatever the cause, respect is due because so many memories from there are sheltered away in my treasure box of friendly conversational souvenirs. It’s been one of the few places in my life where words meant something when shared among close friends.

It was the first place I stopped on my way back from the hospital moments after mom died. My friend, Kevin, was sitting in the back middle booth to share in my grief. Although I haven’t seen him in years, that moment is as clear as this moment now.

During lighter times, my lame jokes – or, perhaps a few awesome ones – danced around one of two front booths where a bevy of bloviating bosomers sat. Chief among them, no one. All of us remained equal. Friends. Not one greater or lesser than the other.

Big heavy mirrors, old rotating chairs sitting partially occupied in front of the counter, stainless steel clanging about as breakfasts were served with a tinge of attitude … All of this, and then some, make the Capitol Hotel Restaraunt what it is – for one more day.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021. This will be the day memories come to an end. Those warm, red vinyl booths will start to get an early fall non-conversational chill and remain so. Short, worn wooden bar chairs will be bound to their silent still posts as of 2:00 p.m. that day. A clean-up crew – and no others – will then pass through one of two entryways into the back dining room. The large grandfather clock there, sitting many decades removed from a big screen t.v., will no longer tick away pleasant fish Friday lunches for business companions, or retirees enjoying their sunset years.

The whole restaurant will be silent – as hushed as the last time a puff of air closed an off-white, laminated, “Since 1905” menu for the last time; Or, perhaps as one of a few times I sat extended, alone, in one of those very confidential front booths and wrote a blog entry. Possibly, muted tones from friends’ last footsteps leaving tomorrow will remain behind as reminders how special this place is to everyone.

Most likely, I will not be one of them.

This does not mean my heart will not exit through those double glass doors one final time with them, however. Hopefully, at least one of my brothers or sisters in crime will find their way into 300 Allegheny Street, Hollidaysburg, to swipe a menu for themselves.

I should remind them take-out could be tricky. Especially from the clink.