From Oz to NZ

I’d planned a detailed Aussie post on this travel day to New Zealand.

Real Life took care of those best laid plans. All I’ve got for today is this photo from MEL‐bourne:


It only took 62 years to get my nickname posted all over baggage claim! And in a foreign country, to boot!

Still sorting thru a continent’s worth of photos, there’s more to come — an island’s worth in the days ahead. I sign off with a last shot from Cairns:

The Road To Being Amazed

Go past the moon and turn left down the hallway,” were the directions I was given.

I looked into the face of the nice lady who spoke those words to me and replied, “And you are probably the only person on the planet who can give directions like that.”

I was at the Houston Museum of Natural Science for “The Art of the Brick” exhibit by artist Nathan Sawaya. This is the picture that is shown in most advertisements for the exhibit. I wasn’t sure where the exhibit was in the museum so I was told to go past the “Moon” exhibit by Luke Jerram. As you may have guessed there is a giant Moon hanging from the ceiling. I first saw this exhibit several weeks ago, but it was still impressive to walk past just the same.

Then my Dear Friend and I arrived at “The Art of the Brick” which is essentially art work created with Legos. Yes, you read that correctly, Legos. I must admit, my expectations were warm at best. Dear Friend is an engineer and has had a life long excitement for anything that you can use to build and create. I thought I would be amused at all of the bright colors.

Was I ever wrong! Before you get to enter the exhibit you watch a short video with the artist explaining himself. I won’t give you any spoilers, but I found Sawaya’s motivations and inspirations for his work quite interesting. Then we entered the exhibit.

It begins mildly enough with some Lego representations of famous works of art. Of course my favorite is The Scream. Some of the works are 2‐D, some are 3‐D, and some are life size. This is almost the look I had on my face as I began to let the artistry around me sink in, but my look was from amazement rather than from distress.

After touring the first room, then you get to see the pieces that fascinated me the most. What absolutely amazed me was the fact that the artist was able to evoke such emotions. Here are three examples:

These are just a few examples. If you have not taken the time to go see this exhibit, then please stop reading now and go.

At the end of the exhibit is a room where the kiddos can play with the Legos themselves. Be careful walking through this room, because there may be a few Legos pieces on the floor.

Of course what is a visit to the Museum of Natural Science without strolling through Hermann Park? My Dear Friend and I decided to stroll around the duck pond. We were serenaded by this friendly and vocal group of water birds that included several geese and one duck. A variation on the theme of “duck, duck, goose” maybe? If you have never been serenaded by a group of geese, then your life is still missing something. Apparently this group has received much positive attention from the humans strolling through the park and they are not shy about showing off.

If you have not stopped reading by now, I will again strongly suggest that you get yourself to Hermann Park now. Go now while the weather is cool and sunny.

You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

Thirty Years…to the Hour!

Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words. To wit:

Houston, TX — 12/2/89, high noon

Fast forward three decades & halfway around the world:

Sydney, AU — 12/2/19, high noon

Yes, love is grand! Especially on the road!🧡

A Trip by the Numbers

In 72 hours, I board a plane bound for Down Under.

It’s a 30th wedding anniversary trip, conjoined with a belated 70th birthday celebration for DH.

Every Journey Needs a Book, or so DH believes.

So excited was he by this Trip of a Lifetime, DH activated his ancient double EE credentials from his Trinity University days and created this book.

I apologize for the shiny cover: kitchen lights don’t like clear plastic overlaid on white. 

What really matters is the profiled cover stops for our Australia and New Zealand adventure:

  • Sydney Opera House
  • Ayres Rock
  • Hobbiton

Beloved has planned even more stops: sailing around the Great Barrier Reef, visits to glowworms and geothermal vents, concerts and ceremonies with Maori dancers and Aboriginal natives, plus sunrise services and starlight shows amid rocks, mountains, and domes.

After the fall we’ve had, we both crave this escape to the other side of the world. But we’re only taking it because it was a journey earlier paid for. Alas.

Getting to/from and then all around Australia and New Zealand requires body padding and patience. It’s a combined 46 hours and five minutes to gallivant between the two nations.

One‐way flying involves 18.4 hours of travel via routing from Houston to Auckland to Sydney. Then, there’s a 17‐hour time difference between here and there. We’ll be on the road 13 days, visiting five cities/towns in as‐yet uncounted stops between the two countries.

Now, Sydney’s on fire, along with much of New South Wales. I’m dreading more news of koalas burning and scorching temps of 94 degrees and more.

Heat stroke fears vanish if I can hold a joey, snuggle with a ‘roo? Maybe eat to chockers? Can I endure the weather and smoke without whinging or sooking?

Half the fun of a road trip is getting ready with research of local slang and customs. This jaunt offers a unique twist, courtesy a late‐trip airline ticket.

How often does your nickname match an airline ticket?

What fun I’ll have landing as Mel in MEL. A lifetime first! Thank you, Melbourne, Australia for this quirky nugget!

It gets weirder later.

On our last day, we’ll arrive home three hours before we left Sydney.

FYI, I beg your understanding.

If I arrive early to your place in December, remember: I may still be on Aussie time. 

Ah, another RoadBroad adventure beckons!

Going Down the Road of Silver Linings

I am now a member of the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA). All this year they have been celebrating their Silver 25th Anniversary. Along with several other writers and poets, I was asked to write either a poem or an essay on the topic of “Silver”. Here is what I wrote and read at the monthly meeting tonight. I apologize in advance that I have no pictures to go with this personal essay. Just read it and imagine the color “silver”.

A silver anniversary means that 25 years have passed. Surely a silver anniversary involves at least one silver lining. While researching this topic, I found out that I am a Silver surfer. I am a senior citizen who surfs the internet. Who knew that had a name?

Twenty‐five years ago, 1994 (the year Wivla began) was the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. No, I wasn’t there. I was only 12 years old at the time. But I watched it on the nightly news. I read about it in the newspaper. I was fascinated. Three days of peace, love and music and so many hippies showing the rest of us how to live in harmony with each other. A lot of cool silver jewelry, which I still like today. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to go to such a music happening.

By the time I was actually old enough for Woodstock, the culture had changed. Music made the switch from the Beatles singing that “All you need is Love” to KC and the Sunshine Band singing “Shake your booty”. Morally it was quite the let down, but I put on my best 1970s wardrobe with my platform shoes and danced with my friends. And, yes, our dances were called things like “The Bump” and “The Hustle”. If you don’t remember how goofy some of those dances were, I dare you to look them up on YouTube. By the end of this decade, Saturday Night Fever showed on the silver screens of movie theaters.

During the 1980’s I turned 25 years old while living in Houston and working at a basic office job for your basic oil company. I wore business suits with shoulder pads and pumps on my feet. I walked the streets of downtown Houston and saw men in three piece suits, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats…in the middle of July. I went to the disco with my friends and we all wanted to dance like Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance, (or at least her body double dancer), but we didn’t. Not even close, I’m afraid.

By the 1990s, I had switched careers and become a Social Worker. I worked at a psychiatric hospital and transitional living facility before hiring on with Harris County. Musically, Whitney Houston was singing I Will Always Love You and My Love is Your Love. Pretty music and easy to dance to. On the silver screen she starred in the movie The Body Guard. Beck recorded a song called Loser and Nirvana recorded Smells Like Teen Spirit. Neither was danceable to me. Snoop Dog was a silver‐tongued rapper. It took me a long time to appreciate rap music. I was in my late 30’s…..was I beginning to get old? In 1994, again the year WiVLA began, Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley. Of those 90’s musicians I listed, Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Michael Jackson met tragic endings. Lisa Marie still rocks on. I listen to Beck who is still writing songs and performing. The last time I saw Snoop Dog, he was hosting a game show and is BFF’s with Martha Stewart. Go figure.

Now it is 2019. It is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. During this decade I retired from being a Social Work Administrator for Harris County after 25 years. I was given a gold and silver watch for my troubles. I have my own silver hair. Beyonce showed women how to rule the world. Shakira’s hips didn’t lie and Pink got the party started. I now listen to a lot of classic rock music on Sirius radio. I also listen to the band Imagine Dragons, because they’re RadioActive and that makes me feel “Cool”. However, I think the fact that I am still using the word, “cool” means I’m probably not. I’m now a member of WiVLA. For the next 25 years I look forward to being a full time writer, a part time visual artist and an ongoing member of the WiVLA community. Now that’s what I call a silver lining.

Until next week.….

The Russians Aren’t Coming — They’re Here

At risk of prompting a NSA wiretap, I’ll admit the big news of my week.

I visited Russia. Its music, that is.

Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra program

Courtesy of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra, DH and I heard the best of three composers in what was billed as “Russian Fireworks.” Also on display was a full range of art, collectibles, and life goods from the Russian Cultural Center of Houston, Our Texas (sic).

At the Stafford Center? Near Houston?

Blog post deadline looming, I headed inside the concert hall, recognizing only one composer—Tchaikovsky.

But at “Symphony No. 2 – Little Russian,” my ears poked up, Spock‐like. They pointed even higher when conductor Dr. Dominque Royem offered, Little Russian references the Ukraine.” 

FBSO on Stafford Center stage

How often our desperate escapes lead us back to the Real World!

How could I not  think of present‐day political realities? As the orchestra thundered through the composition, my mind launched.

It imagined world domination by multiple autocrats. Armageddon beckoned in the brass and strings. Amid cymbal bursts and trumpet blasts, my body slunk deep into the red velvet seat.

Wild imaginings soared. Long pause. Self‐talk roared back.

Strings crescendoed. Gongs clanged.

You came here to escape mental meanderings! This is what art can do for you. Step away into this world, not that one. Just for this afternoon. Hand over heart, my breath began to slow.

Post‐concert and heart calm, we sauntered through a lobby with cruising babushkas hawking samovars. So much color!

An interesting discovery about the lavish metal pots. Samovar is basically a fancy tea pot. For this daily tea drinker, it took discipline to not buy this samovar. I consoled with practicality: too big for a single user, too ornate for expanding Zen tastes.

Through both music and merchandise, gratitude surged from deep inside me.

I rediscovered why I attend cultural events. Each one expands my horizons and eliminates ancient biases. Only one‐on‐one connection can minimize, eliminate outdated propaganda.  

Hug‐a‐Bear with Royem and Ormand?

Sometimes those links get really close, as when the hug‐generous conductor walks by.

Besides samovars, babushkas, and bears, I discovered a new appreciation for grand and battle‐worthy music.

All my life, I’ve been a lover, not a fighter.

What prompts this rush to big, bold, and brash?

The Road Around Art Class

I have had so much fun these past few weeks taking The Art of Collage at the Glasscock School at Rice University. We had our final critique this past Tuesday and it was great seeing all of the creativity of my classmates. Again, many thanks to Ellen Orseck who taught the class. I learned so much.

Since you couldn’t be there, I have chosen a few pictures of all of the collage work for you to see. Here they are in no particular order:

It is interesting to note that some of the students in this class had taken any number of art classes before. However, some of the students were taking an art class for the first time. So, if your creativity is looking for an outlet, then check out the class offerings at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies!

I look forward to seeing you there!

Until next week.…..

Book Fairs Change Lives and Calendars

A single paragraph makes a reader’s weekend.

When DH handed me the blue blurb, I read three magic words before deafening him with my screaming “YES!”

The words? Bargain book sale.

The newpaper article elaborated: “…paperbacks, hardbacks, DVDs, CDs, children’s and youth books, nonfiction at bargain prices. Donations accepted…”

Buy? Donate? Both at the same time?

That’s a party my Inner Bibliophile can enjoy.

We entered the first conference room. I gasped.

Grateful I’d packed several empty book bags, I rush‐scanned the tables. After a quick breath, I went back to consider the gotta‐haves.

I found a second surprise — tables crammed with CD’s and DVD’s. Music and movies ranged from classical and funk to kindergarten flicks and horror shows.

Amazing what people donate. And buy.

In an outside hallway sat chairs crammed with boxes of Spanish, Arabic, and unrecognizable language books plus software manuals. I perused more rows of romance novels than I’ve ever seen in a traditional bookshop.

A distant room held non‐fiction, including instruction notebooks, travel guides, and student textbooks from god‐knows‐what‐university.

I don’t know what amazed me more—the volume of material available or the size of the crowd. All ages showed up. Even the youngest children scanned book titles. As their own entertainment, I’m sure but I watched, crossing my fingers in hopes that the littlest readers believe as I do — a good story can cure almost anything.

Nothing like proclaiming your best command.

It’s why I paraded my favorite t‐shirt around the trio of book‐filled rooms. I packed in with 11 must‐have books, four sexy jazz CD’s, and a pair of never‐seen movies.

Our haul only cost us a baker’s dozen in bucks. In a brick‐and‐mortar, that stash would’ve beat $200 easy.

On the way home, we stopped for tea and read for an hour, each of us diving deep into our newest Best Book. Scanning our new Book Fair bookmark, we both discovered the best news.

Our little town offers these Bargain Book Fairs every other month.

Where have we been for 27 years?

Can’t answer that, but I know where we’ll be on December 7th.

Our book bags are empty, ready, and grateful that even passionate readers can miss the best headline. 

There’s Always Another Art Road

This past Tuesday, I walked into the Anderson‐Clarke Center on the Rice University campus pulling a cart filled with collage supplies. This building is home to the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies where I am enjoying taking a course on collage art. I am learning quite a bit from instructor and artist Ellen Orseck. I got on the elevator and thought about the day’s assignment on the way up to the second floor. However, as soon as the elevator doors opened, I saw a group of people working on an art installation. Actually there were two different works of art being installed. I quickly learned that this was part of The Sol LeWitt Project. This particular piece is called “Wall Drawing #869A.” I found out that the people working on this line drawing include both Rice University students and faculty, as well as Glasscock students and faculty. Also contributors to this piece on the second floor will include Susanne Glasscock among other patrons. I heard that this is the first time this particular work has been installed anywhere in the world.

After leaving my supplies in the classroom, I returned to the ground floor, where I observed draftspeople working on another Sol LeWitt piece, “Wall Drawing #1115: Circle within a square, each with broken bands of color”. While the line drawing is scheduled to be completed this week: the larger circle mural will be completed by the middle of November. The artists who are reproducing both of these conceptual creations are following detailed instructions left posthumously by Sol LeWitt so that others can continue to enjoy his work. Except for the fact that both of these works are going up on white walls, the process involved in each is quite different.

Returning to the second floor, I looked down at the work space being shared by the the draftspeople. Very organized and very well laid out.

Observing from this vantage point, one could almost reach out and touch the draftspeople; however, there are signs asking you not to do that. Take pictures and observe all you want, but don’t interrupt creativity in process.

As my collage class began, Ellen Orseck explained the project to us and told us about the conceptual artist, Sol LeWitt. We even walked down to look at the processes involved. Ellen explained that later that evening she would take her turn working on the line drawing.

She also has a painting in the lobby of the second floor. It is included in a collection of art works by instructors for the Glasscock School.

It is a real treat to take an art class in this building. I get inspired just walking through to get to my classroom.

The Wall Drawings Installation Opening Reception is scheduled for November 18th, 5:30 — 7:30. I can’t wait to see it. To learn more about the Sol LeWitt Project you can go to glasscock.rice.edu/lewitt. Or you can visit the Anderson‐Clarke Center and see it for yourself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next week.…..

Embrace the Journey, Anyway

NOTEI drafted this post on October 22nd, precisely 24 hours before learning of my beloved sister’s sudden death. Days later, the Houston Astros would lose the World Series. As I re‐read the post, a salty gulp of poignant synchronicity rose up in my throat. While a life is not a sport, my memory will never disconnect these two events. Still, I embrace the journey ahead. My sister would demand that, and more books, of course.  — Melanie 

Booked and Barefoot at Minute Maid Park

Six weeks ago, I endured a night of Houston Astros baseball. You may remember my preferred view:

That was September. This is October. We’re now living in a sea of World Series hype for our Houston Astros.

(Notice that super‐friendly reference there? Yes, she’s drinking the [orange] juice.) it’s officially Baseball Madness in the Bayou City and the hype carries a contagious virus.

Mention World Series and the verbal bets begin. Will we go full seven?

Eager to join the tribe, I’ve begun retelling my most recent Astros memory:  I saw these boys play when the park’s field stands were more empty than full! I watched 15 runs batted in! I saw Air Yordan-what’s-his-name now hit a triple!

Marshall McLuhan got it wrong. The MESSAGE drives the medium.

In these exciting times, why not buy a World Series shirt? Even if you’re a Never‐Sports person.

I like the possibilities behind this tee.

It confirms our play in the Big Boy Game but offers no promises beyond that. We may not end up The Champs after seven rounds but we’ll be on the field. We’ll try.

That double play reminded me of another picture from last month’s free‐ticket night.

“Embrace the Journey,” indeed!

I’m standing outside Minute Maid Park with my favorite bag, chosen for three reasons: the pair of books inside and its simple message. Only later did I realize the magic of “Embrace the Journey:”

  • Every day offers a journey, to or from somewhere.
  • Discover something.
  • Embrace what you find.

That magic first appeared as DH and I cruised the lobby of Minute Maid Park.

Can you find the “H”?

This swatch of faded Astro turf hangs in the lobby of the ball field. Look closely to find the raised team logo. It’s a five‐pointed star centered behind a capital letter “H.”

Even up close, the search demands a determined visual search. My eyes failed. DH whooped when he spied the logo. I, instead, reached out with silent hands to feel what I couldn’t see.

When my fingers grazed the grass, I smiled and remembered again: Discover something — embrace your journey. 

I walked into the stadium, looked around, built a pretzel diamond then picked up my book to read.

Now I’m walking into the next game, watching and embracing whatever’s next on this journey.

In baseball or books.