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 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.…..

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.…..

The Road To The Moon And Beyond

I traveled into space twice this week! Okay, so they were virtual reality trips, but they felt and looked real. Good news! You can too! All one has to do is visit the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University. From now through December 21st they have several exhibits that have to do with traveling to the Moon. One part is actually called  Moon Shot. There is one multi‐media exhibit that I will not even try to describe, but trust me you will be fascinated. Then there is one large gallery with works from several artists including Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. There are also several newspaper articles from July of 1969 and one even touted that we would be colonizing the Moon with the decade.

The entire exhibit shows not only the historical significance of the time and Rice University’s part in that history, but also the lasting effects on art, culture and society.

And, of course, I mentioned Virtual Reality trips into outer space. One of the VR trips is located in the big gallery. The other is in a gallery all by itself. Look for a door that looks like this:

Both VR experiences are great fun and each lasts about 15 minutes. I was somewhat hesitant considering that I have a serious fear of heights, but easily tolerated both adventures. Oh yes, there were times when I was floating in space. Yet I could feel the floor beneath my feet even if I couldn’t see it. I also walked on the moon and even landed on the sun.….without getting burned!

All of the exhibits in the Moody Center are free, however, there is a nominal fee for parking in the lot directly across the street. Well worth the time and money to be sure.

Also, today is Halloween and I would be remiss if I did not mention my new annual Halloween tradition. It involves both me and my Dear Friend going to lunch at 100% Taquito which is located at 3245 Southwest Freeway here in Houston. The food is really good even for a vegetarian and they really know how to decorate for the season. I’ll just post my pics below and you will see what I mean:

Until next week.….

Further Down That October Road

Sometimes things just happen that catch my attention. That’s what happened to me Sunday night when my Dear Friend and I went to the Alley Theatre to see the play Vietgone. The playwright is Qui Nguyen. As soon as I walked into the Neuhaus Theatre, I knew I was in the right place. I took one look at the stage and knew this was a play for a RoadBroad!

If you have not seen this yet, I highly recommend it. The story takes you back to 1975 and is told from the viewpoint of some of the Vietnamese refugees that came to this country at that time. It is both humorous and dramatic. You will laugh and you will cry. What more recommendation do you need to go see this play? Go!

When I wasn’t visiting the theatre this past week, I was walking again around Rice University. There are so many works of art and while we are actually experiencing fall‐like weather, I want to get out as much as possible. I don’t remember what the name of the building it was that I was walking past, but I just happened to catch a glimpse at these door knobs.

I have heard of using gargoyles to scare off evil spirits, but what exactly is the purpose of these doorknobs? And just what exactly are these creatures? Are they snakes? Dragons? Mythical sea creatures? Are they supposed to ward off students with nefarious intent? I did not go in this building. I was afraid of what I might find. Maybe a mad scientist brewing up potions for Halloween. It really makes me wonder about the founders of Rice University and the architect they hired for their buildings.

In another part of campus I found this wonderful fountain. It was very peaceful here. I wasn’t worried about my immortal soul in this part of campus. This was a spot where I could stay for a while and listen to the soothing sounds of the rippling water cascading gently over the rocks and down the sides. I am calm just thinking about it. I may have to go back there.

But there is one more question I must ask before I sign off for today.….…Why does the Energizer Bunny wear blue flip flops? You will only know what I am talking about if you watch television. The Energizer Bunny shows up in commercials for batteries. He is a bunny. He doesn’t even wear pants! Why does a bunny need flip flops? I wonder about these things. If you have any answers, please let me know.

Until next week.….

October Road Into Fall

Remember that really nice Saturday we had a while back? It felt like fall. The temperatures were cool…which in Houston meant that it was anything below 90 degrees. I couldn’t wait to get outside to get some fresh air and sunshine. Well, maybe big city air isn’t the freshest and I always use sunscreen so the sun won’t inadvertently kill me. But I was ready for the day.

I just had one errand to run first. It was a trip to Ikea to buy a floor lamp. Now a trip to Ikea is a treat all unto itself. Just walking through the store gets you whatever number of steps is considered healthy these days. My Dear Friend went with me and he saw several variations on new and modern chemistry labs which were disguised as kitchens.

We finally found the lamps and had several to choose from. I chose a nice white number which would fit nicely in my living room. It passed all possible “cat safety” protocols. It had two settings so I could either see to read or put on the low lights when I want to rest and chillax. It sends light up which I understand to be very good feng shui. What more could I want? Sold!

Then I went out to the parking lot. I turned to the right and saw this combination of signs. Where was I supposed to go? Would I ever be able to find my way home again? It certainly could be construed as a philosophical question for life. The road is clearly marked as “one way”, but the exit goes the other way. Which way would you choose?

So after escaping the parking lot conundrum, the day was ours and we took it to Rice University. Beautiful campus, beautiful trees, beautiful works of art. A great place for a walk. We started out walking and then noticed that this campus if full of interesting critters. Of course at Rice there are always many examples of owls. This one is a favorite of mine. I love the smooth lines. And look at those talons! I am only grateful that this is a statue and not a real owl. Of course I have never heard of this owl attacking anyone. Both students and faculty members remain safe as they navigate their ways between buildings and classes. I am sure they sleep better at night once they figure this out.

Next we went to see the Cohen House Sundial. It is one of the fanciest and most complex sundials I have ever seen. Befitting the Rice standards of intellectual excellence, I think it requires a PhD. in either science or engineering to figure it out. However, I just thought it was pretty. Then I noticed a lizard either napping and sunning himself or he has his PhD and was noticing the time. I’m not sure which. I’m willing to bet that even the lizards on the Rice Campus are smarter than most of us mere mortals.

The next sculpture really caught my attention. It shows two people sitting down and facing each other. It looks as if they are talking among themselves.  I wondered about this for a while. Then I noticed that a fair number of students were walking around campus and the vast majority of them looked at their phones as they walked. I finally decided that this sculpture was a tutorial for the students to show them what face‐to‐face communication can look like. Oh, I’m sorry. Does that last statement make me seem old? Probably, but only because compared to the college youth of today, I am.

Until next week.….

The Art Road

What to do during these last few warm days in Houston? Tomorrow we are guaranteed cool weather. A 30 degree temperature drop. I can’t wait!

But last weekend it was still warm and I was restless, so I decided to head over to Sawyer Yards and stroll through some art. Sawyer Yards is a collection of industrial warehouses that have been converted into a thriving creative community with building names like Winter Street, Silver Street, The Silos, among others. It is not unusual for them to have market hours during the weekend when almost every artist is in their studios showing off their work. I have never been able to make it through every building in one evening. There is just too much to see and experience.

Last Saturday evening, I made it through both Winter Street and The Silos. My first stop was at the studio of Marsha Glickman who does a lot of collage work. I was very impressed by the wide variety of materials that she used in her pieces.

Collage is a new artistic passion of mine. I am having great fun taking classes and visiting studios to see how other artists are doing this. There is no end to the types of materials one can use. Magazine pictures, found objects, beads, etc. are all fair game with collage. Here are some examples of Marsha’s work:

Then I made my way to Josena Arquieta who is a painter. Josena and I have teamed up to prepare a study in “Compassion” that will be presented next June at the Holocaust Museum Houston. She will make a visual representation and I will provide an essay.

Here is another example of Josena’s work:

So many talented artists! Never enough time! Never enough money! Never enough art supplies!

By the way, next Tuesday, October 15th, The Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA) is hosting a pop‐up market at the Printing Museum. WIVLA is an organization where creative women can meet and network. Throughout the year there are art shows, poetry readings, and various collaborations among both the literary and visual arts members. At the pop‐up market you can find works of art by a variety of members. There will be a raffle and all types of artisan goods. The Printing Museum is located at 1324 West Clay. The pop‐up market will run from 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. I hope you can join us!

Until next week.….

The Older, But Better, Road

I got a facial this afternoon. I went to the Greenhouse Day Spa which is by far my new favorite spa here in Houston. I got a facial from Annie. She is excellent. I visit this spa on a regular basis to get both facials and massages. I highly recommend it. However, lately I realize that my conversations with Annie revolve around keeping my skin hydrated and protected from the sun. I now use sunscreen on a daily basis. Does my attention to skin care mean that I am getting old?

Women my age…” I am told have funny little hairs pop up their faces out of nowhere. Well, yes, that occasionally happens to me, but I am quite sure that doesn’t prove anything. Facials used to be just a nice luxury treat rather than a long‐term maintenance plan. Doesn’t the waiting room of Greenhouse Day Spa look relaxing and inviting?

Twice during the past six months I have visited doctors for the most routine of appointments. Okay, so one appointment was for an arthritic knee. Yet, since weight loss surgery and losing enough pounds to have a small humanoid walking beside me everywhere I go and attending routine water aerobics classes, my knee is much better. Thank you. Yet during both of these appointments I heard the phrase, “Women your age…” and “You may start noticing different pains…”. Seriously, just because I now make noises when I stand up after sitting for long periods of time, doesn’t mean a darn thing!

Okay, over a year ago I retired from my full‐time government job. However, I retired early so I could devote the next 30 to 40 years to writing and art. I have been very lucky when it comes to aging. I never had any grey hairs until I was in my 50’s. Wrinkles didn’t seem to become permanent until I was in my 60’s. I am still in my very early 60’s. Medicare is still very much in the future.

I am sure I do not look anything like what I envisioned someone my age to look like when I was younger. I do not feel anything like what I saw people my age feeling like when I was younger. I wonder how younger folks see me?

Fortunately for me, I have never felt better! I haven’t been this active in a long time. I am passionate about both writing and art and now I have time for both. I both write and go listen to other writers. I try my hand a various different types of art and spend a lot of time in art galleries and museums.

I have also noticed that among me and my friends, the older we get the more self‐assured and at peace we are. I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.

Also, another great source of joy is the fact that it is now October. After a very long and hot summer, we are supposed to get our first cool front next week. I have been waiting for this. Now I am off to do some more Halloween decorating. I revel in this time of year. BOO!

Until next week.….

When Roads Flood

Wasn’t it just days ago that Melanie visited the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern? The location that used to hold much of the drinking water for the City of Houston? It is no longer in use.….except to catch flood waters when the rains set in.

I can only imagine that the Cistern is now full of water. Houston, and many surrounding areas have now been dealing with Tropical Storm Imelda for days now. For the longest time, Houston was spared the worst of the rains. However, all of that changed today. Starting overnight and all through today we have been enduring a severe rain storm. It technically started out as a “rain band” from Imelda. Then the the rains started a thing called “training”. A line of storms just keeps raining over and over the same area until everything is flooded.

Much of the talk on the television news reports that have been running all day make many comparisons to Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Allison. Of course this area received 50 to 60 inches of rain during Harvey. So far we have only received 20 to 30 inches of rain with Imelda. There is an ever increasing list of creeks, lakes and bayous that are out of their banks. News reporters are out in the field and have assisted with many rescues of folks who need to evacuate their homes.

The saddest part is that many people who were flooded out by Hurricane Harvey two years ago are once again flooded out by Imelda. Some just moved back into their homes last spring. Other Harvey victims are simply being tested with PTSD today and trying to remember to breathe and relax.

Since the weather wasn’t so bad early this morning, many people made it into work and kids made it to school. Now freeways are both flooded and congested. Schools are letting out, but kids can’t get home and parents can’t get to the schools. Here is a picture of a Metro bus that is close to the Intercontinental Airport. Shortly after this picture made the news Metro suspended all of their routes until “conditions improved”.

Of course there are always those who will get out in the middle of a storm and try to buy one more batch of groceries just in case the lights go out. Here is a glance of the grocery store parking lot near my home. It is not a very good picture, because I was standing out of the rain. I wasn’t going to get any closer. I hope all of these folks made it home safe and sound.

How did I fare? Since I am retired from the local government job I had for many years, I am home safe and sound. My lights flickered a few times earlier while it was lighting and thundering, but the electricity never went out completely. I was supposed to go to hear the Houston Symphony this evening and that has been cancelled. Many streets in the downtown area are flooding or flooded. Much of the downtown Theatre District just got completely up and running after the damage done during Harvey. I have not heard about any damage this time. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Compared to many who have just lost everything for the second time in two years, I am very lucky and thankful.

Until next week.….

Where Were You?

Where were you? I have now lived long enough to be able to answer any number of these questions. For example:

  • Where were you on November 22, 1963, when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas?

I was in the first grade in a small Lutheran parochial school in Memphis, Tennessee. My classmates and I were on our way back into our classroom after recess. We all noticed that the 8th graders were watching television. Since this was 1963, watching television during the school day was very unusual. When we were all seated and quiet, our teacher told us what had happened.

  • Where were you on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off?

I was a full grown adult living in Houston, Texas and working for your typical oil company. Since it was the 1980s I was wearing a suit with shoulder pads sewn into the jacket. My heels matched my suit, of course. I was actually traveling to a lunch time meeting when the news broke on the radio station I was listening to in my car. The meeting was with the American Society of Training and Development. I was hoping to develop a career in corporate training. I remember thinking at the start of the meeting, we should take a “moment of silence” in remembrance of the astronauts that were killed. I didn’t mention this to anyone and we didn’t do it. I still regret not speaking up.

  • Where were you on September 11, 2001, when our country was attacked and the twin towers fell?

I was running late for work. In spite of the fact I was trying to hurry, when I looked at the television (I always watch morning news) I saw the first tower on fire with smoke billowing out across the New York landscape. For whatever reason, this image caught my attention and I just sat down and watched. I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Then the second plane flew into the second tower. Our country was under attack. I knew I had to leave for the office. I was a Manager with the Social Services Department within Harris County. I called into the office and spoke with one of the Supervisors. I told him to turn on the television in the client waiting room. I thought both staff and clients needed to know what was happening. By the time I made it to work, the radio was announcing that the Pentagon was on fire. Not much work was done that day, except all clients who had appointments to receive assistance with utility bills and rent were seen and processed as normal. Even if the world is falling apart, there are still people living in poverty who need help with their bills. While all staff continued to help clients, we also stayed glued to the television as much as possible.

I can only hope going forward I have many days of to remember where I was when something good happened.

Until next week.….