It has been quite some time since I last updated. I went to a beautiful wedding and then ventured way out West to Colorado with my little brother for about ten days. I have been home, in New Jersey, for about a week and while little of import or interest, especially pertaining to my writing career has happened, I am still optimistic I can complete a viable portion of my second manuscript this summer. I was certainly inspired and rejuvenated by my journey to Estes Park, Colorado. I would like to share some of my vacation memories here in hopes the recounts will be inspirational to some other aspiring writer or writers.
Mikey and I left on our trip directly after Mass. That first day, I drove through the remainder of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, deciding to call it a night at a hotel in Fremont, Indiana. It was all standard operating procedure as far as road trips go, but the romantic in me was alive and well and there was a remarkably attractive man eating his continental breakfast, surprisingly alone. Had I been alone, I like to think he might have sat down at the table I had chosen and struck up a conversation. But I was not alone, I was with my little brother whom I love very much, and we both believed the drive to be breathtakingly beautiful. There was just so much space, filled with vibrant greens and blues I had never seen before.
The second day of travel, we drove through a tornado warning in Iowa. We stopped at the World’s Largest Truck Stop to eat and wait for the storm to pass at the World’s Worst Buffet – I bestowed it with such a title because buffet implies choice, but this so-called buffet only offered fried chicken with an assortment of expected sides. When we left, the storm had only dissipated ever so slightly and it seemed like we were actually driving into the worst of it. The rain was so thick and driving so hard, I could not see. I crawled along the interstate with my flashers on, shoulders tensed near my ears, leaning as far forward in the driver’s seat as possible to search the skies for enormous lightning streaks and funnel clouds. I have never seen such dark, threatening skies. I held the rosary hanging from the rearview mirror and said a few prayers. Doing so saved me from a tornado, but not from a speeding ticket in Indiana. I guess they can catch some “Midnight Riders,” as it were.
As scary as the weather was in Iowa, nothing filled me with fear as much as breezes rippling leaves of cornstalks in large fields. Thanks, Stephen King. Mikey put it in a more poetic way; he called it a sea of green, leaves in the wind rippling like waves.
When we stopped at a hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska after the second day of driving, we met a guy on the elevator from Colorado – he was headed back home. He was drinking a beer and had I been drinking a beer, he would have sufficed for a romantic daydream. I imagined that had I been alone, he would have invited me back to his hotel room for a brew and intelligent, wonderful conversation. Instead, he said the mountains in Colorado are breathtaking the first time you see them and went on his way.
At dinner that night, there was an older man seated at an adjacent table who was on his way to Los Angeles, California for his niece’s wedding.
The next day, the third day, we made it to Colorado. Estes Park is the most beautiful place I have ever seen – I know I’ve been overusing that phrase, but the beauty is nearly indescribable, so the tired phrase is all I can come up with (poor excuse for a writer, I know). When I was driving westbound on Route 36 in Colorado, and I saw the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance, I was awe struck. The beauty and the majesty overwhelmed me and suddenly, I felt like crying. The dark rock and the snow-capped peaks looked mighty and formidable and I was inexplicably terrified and anxious, gripping the steering wheel as tightly as possible with sweaty palms. But, upon some reflection, I bet the curving road that hugged mountain and cliff alike with no guard rail was probably to blame, especially considering my poor, stuttering engine that worked so hard to keep up against the staggering elevation. I made sure to charge my camera battery upon finally reaching the hotel and resolved to really try to take some pictures, to try and capture the indescribable beauty, because the camera on my iPhone was not cutting it.
Downtown Estes Park is perfect. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Rivers run along the rear of the shops and the most charming bookstore is right next to a perfect coffee shop and paper store. It is where I would like to meet my husband.
On the journey to Colorado, Mikey and I crossed through two time zones. We were chasing the sun.
I-80 sucks – not matter which time zone its in. There was SO much construction.
If you want proof that God exists, that life at its worst is only organized chaos but as its best is a miraculously detailed plan of exquisite beauty, then shut your mouth, open your eyes wide, and go West. It really is God’s country.
Mikey and I rode the aerial tramway to the top of one of the Rocky Mountains, then we hiked to the summit. I did it in cheap, rubber flip flops, too. While we were there, I fed a chipmunk; he took a peanut right from my hand! He put his little paws on my hand and it was adorable!
I spent time at the heated, in-ground pool at the hotel, just reading, listening to music, swimming, and tanning. The creepy trees with markings eerily similar to human eyes on the light-colored bark Melanie and I found in Maine are also in Colorado.
Mikey and I went to The Stanley Hotel for a Night Ghost Tour – it’s the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.
But my life is such a fucking shit show. When Mike and I were dining at the restaurant next door to our hotel, called The Sundeck, my debit card was declined when I tried to pay with it. But I didn’t think much of it because I had just paid the balance for the room and have a daily limit of about $700, so it made sense to me. Then, at the restaurant in The Stanley Hotel called Cascades, it was declined again. I was embarrassed and concerned, so I tried to use the ATM downstairs. It didn’t read my card and I thought maybe the card was old and worn; parts had been peeling off and it expired in about a month anyway. I tried using my phone to locate a TD Bank in Colorado, but there are none. Panicked and sweaty, I tried the ATM machine again. It read my card this time because I swiped it properly but it wouldn’t allow me to take any cash out. This all happened in the half-hour before our Night Ghost Tour was set to start, so I was feeling rushed and overwhelmed. I called customer service and apparently, my checking account was frozen because of suspicious activity – someone in Washington had been buying (or at least attempting) software online. I explained that I was far from home on vacation and needed money to eat and get home. The woman verified some recent purchases and then transferred me to a supervisor who agreed to allow me to access my account very briefly. We agreed on a withdrawal of $600, but the stupid ATM at the hotel only allowed transactions in increments of $200, so I had to complete three separate transactions and had no debit card for the remainder of the trip. I wondered about how to pay for hotels on the way back. I had my credit card, but feared maxing it out.
To make matters worse, Mikey really enjoyed the Night Ghost Tour and wanted to venture on the Paranormal Investigation with me but he couldn’t because he is not eighteen and I felt awful because he was disappointed, and I didn’t want to leave him alone, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I would regret it. UGH! I knew I should go because I planned the trip before I knew Mike was coming and I could make it up to him by buying him an expensive watch from the gift shop, but I still felt like shit. The watch was $120.00 which I didn’t really have to spend, but Mom agreed to send money if there was a need. I hate using my parents’ money. Only I could be that miserable on vacation.
The best parts about those days were Barney and Jessica. Barney was our waiter at breakfast who reminded me of Dick Holloran from “The Shining,” who moved to Colorado from Washington, D.C. the day Pope John Paul II died. He knew the locals, the regular customers, and easily and readily engaged in animated conversation at The Mountaineer. Jessica was our waitress from The Sundeck who I bumped into at the hotel pool with her two beautiful, friendly children (girl aged 7 and boy aged 4) who were diving for pennies after the little boy lost his candy in the pool, which his sister rightfully refused to retrieve. She thought her mom and I were friends, which was sweet considering it was mainly idle chatter. Jessica told me about her eight siblings (a brother in Fort Worth, Texas and the others in Missouri) who want her to leave Estes Park to be closer, but she won’t because she absolutely adores Estes Park – she never locks her door and has never felt the need to. She recommended the tours at The Stanley Hotel and was just a genuinely wonderful human being.
When it rains, it pours; you know, when I woke up in the morning of June 27th, I felt incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. It was a horrendous combination of exhaustion, nausea, and anxiety. Mike and I purchased breakfast at the Donut Haus – and then we went into Downtown Estes Park and did just a little bit of shopping. Afterwards, we decided to venture into Rocky Mountain National Park.
We stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center and decided to travel Trail Ridge Road. It’s the highest paved road in America and goes through different tundra. The views are literally breathtaking, to the point where it seems surreal, like there’s some kind of magic taking observers from one painting to another. It’s almost unfathomable that such beauty, possibility, and opportunity, can exist and that there are some who will never experience it. We stopped and took tons of pictures. The road was longer than we anticipated so when we finally exited the park – $20 and an hour later – we were ready for lunch and to return to the hotel. I put the address in the GPS and for close to an hour, we were hopelessly and miserably lost, with the needle of the gas gauge dangerously flirting with the red. Mikey was infuriatingly unhelpful and obnoxiously oblivious to the terror and misery consuming me.
Dad sent me a text message asking me to call him, so I did when I finally found a gas station and filled up on fuel. I cried, finally venting and finally breaking. Mom thinks I just finally allowed myself to freak out about my debit card being frozen. For five days everything was going so smoothly and then it all went SO shitty SO fast. Once I finally realized the only way back to the hotel was back the exact way we had come, we backtracked and I had to pay another fucking twenty dollars because when we first came in, the park ranger didn’t tell me to keep my receipt because it was actually a pass for a week’s admittance, and it blew out of the window.
I was beside myself.
But the trip was salvaged and I was okay once I knew where I was. I ate some food, and talked to Mom. Mikey and I didn’t do much for the remainder of the day, other than get some ice cream in town and watch a girl catch a small fish in a plastic cup from the river behind the shops.
The Stanley Tour at The Stanley Hotel was more informative than the others. It talked about its supernatural past, as well as the more general history. We were allowed to travel upstairs and peeked into rooms. That same night, I went on my Paranormal Investigation. There were severe thunderstorm warnings being issued, constantly breaking into the regularly scheduled programming with alarming buzzes and beeps. The sky was something to see, with the lightning appearing to strike the very tops of the mountains. Mike was okay at the hotel and I swear a ghost tugged on my pants. It was a good night.
The next day was Saturday and our last full day in Colorado. We were running out of things to do and were honestly ready to head home. Since the hotel wanted us to change rooms for our last night, we simply cancelled that last night and left for home Sunday morning, after Mass at a beautiful church near the hotel. We only stopped once on the way home, somewhere in Iowa, probably because we were so anxious to get back. That second day, I drove through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I was exhausted and glad to be home, but already, I miss the beauty, majesty, mystery, romance and imagination of Colorado.
“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do. There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”
– “Summertime Blues,” The Who
“I got that summertime, summertime sadness.”
– “Summertime Sadness,” Lana Del Rey
Well, well, well; we finally meet again.
I’d like to sincerely apologize for my prolonged absence and offer an explanation. I am afraid I was battling a severe case of Summertime Blues. I felt extremely lethargic and did nothing of consequence. All my dreams, all my expectations of living were surrendered to an ultimate kind of laziness that robbed me of my health (I can’t even begin to estimate how much weight I’ve gained back, and how much hard work has been all for naught), my inspiration (I only wrote – really wrote – for a two week stretch and its value is debatable) and my passions (I stopped reading). I could have and should have been out with friends, but I picked loneliness instead. I would have rather been at home, alone, stuffing my face and watching mindless television instead of engaging fully in love, and laughter, and life. It was terribly depressing and altogether frightening. I was the exact opposite of the person I had planned on beginning to become. I wasn’t living; I was just slowly dying, merely existing and nothing more.
Stephen King, a personal hero of mine which I am sure has been mentioned, says that all writers drink from the same pool, meaning that all writers are inspired by the same pantheon, so to speak. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that King quotes Thomas Hardy in his novel Bag of Bones: “Compared to the dullest human being actually walking about on the face of the earth and casting his shadow there, the most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones.” In the television adaptation of King’s novel, the main character named Mike Noonan goes on to explain how he fears that is what he has become; nothing more than a bag of bones. I totally understand that. I could have said that quote myself this past month, this last month of summer.
But now it’s the beginning of September and it’s time to cut the pity party and do what I am supposed to do, and to do what I want to do. I want to lose weight, so I will. I want to be a writer, so I will. I want to be a good and an effective teacher, so I will. I am going to turn twenty-four in sixteen days. I’ve never been good with numbers, but these numbers seem manageable as long as I am always striving to be the woman I want to be.
Happy September, everyone; the year is coming to a close, but the academic year is just beginning. My wish for all who read this is that they learn something about themselves from now until June; that they discover a truth about themselves that gives them comfort and hope in tomorrow.
“I plan to crawl outside these walls,
Close my eyes and see.
And fall into the heart and arms,
Of those who wait for me.
I cannot move a mountain now;
I can no longer run.
I cannot be who I was then:
In a way, I never was.
I watch the clouds go sailing;
I watch the clock and sun.
Oh, I watch myself, depending on,
September when it comes.”
– “September (When It Comes),” Roseanne Cash featuring Johnny Cash
PROMPT: An architect is informed that his current project bears an uncanny resemblance to a “haunted” hotel destroyed decades earlier.
PIECE: Reggie was genuinely beaming, and his eyes were actually smiling, when he unrolled his blueprints across Mr. Field’s desk. He grabbed the nearest paperweight (clearly engineered by one of Mr. Field’s many grandchildren), a stapler, a cup filled with pens and a legal pad to weigh down the four corners. The white lines popped against the blue background of the paper and Reggie wasn’t sure if he had seen anything as beautiful as physical evidence of perseverance and a job well-done. He was nearly breathless, thinking about all the cups of coffee and sleepless nights, hunched over at the desk in his studio apartment. He thought about the sunrises he had watched, weary from a severe lack of sleep but alive enough to still appreciate the beauty and wonder of the rising sun and the shadows it cast, aided by the taller points of the cityscape viewed from the only window in his apartment. Thankfully, that window was ceiling to floor and the only thing in the apartment that he cleaned regularly. Percolating with enthusiasm, Reggie eagerly turned to Mr. Field.
Mr. Field looked less than pleased. As a matter of fact, if Reggie was willing to put aside his ego which seemed to be ever-bruising, he would have to admit that Mr. Field looked downright terrified. His face was ashen, and the lines all constricted so that his countenance was an uncomfortable mixture of horror and concentration. Some awful, irrational truth was settling over Mr. Field, like a man on death row who was just denied his last appeal. As Reggie’s smile understandably and considerably dimmed, he wondered if it could be as serious as all that, as life and death. He cleared his throat and called out Mr. Field’s name. He did so softly, so as not to disturb a clearly already rattled man.
Mr. Field turned to Reggie absent-mindedly, like he had forgotten the young man existed, let alone was still in the room. He collected himself and offered a phony smile, but the jig was up; Reggie had seen his initial reaction to the plans. Mr. Field watched Reggie’s smile completely disappear, now replaced with dread anticipation. Mr. Field cleared his throat, swallowed hard and said, “You’ve done a good job, Reg. I’m impressed.”
“Tell me what’s wrong, Mr. Field. We’ve known each other too long to play this game. Just give it to me straight, please.”
Mr. Field let his eyes take all of the young man in, the young man who was going to be so damn successful it seemed ludicrous; the young man who had no idea how talented he was; the young man Mr. Field had taken under his wing once Reggie had graduated. He loved Reggie and wanted nothing for the best for him, and that desire directly conflicted with the answer Reggie had asked for. Mr. Field sighed and walked to a filing cabinet in the far corner of the room. It looked dusty and had dents all over the visible side. Despite its neglected appearance, the filing cabinet was locked and it took some minutes before Mr. Field located the key, which was taped to the wall behind an extravagant kind of painting. Filing cabinet unlocked, Mr. Field doubled over to rifle through folders in the very bottom drawer, mercilessly shoving all of the papers forward. In the back, rolled up and folded over time and time again, was another set of blueprints.
Mr. Field brought the blueprints and unrolled them right on top of Reggie’s creation. Paperweights weren’t needed as the papers had been folded for so many years that the paper did not curl up. “These are the blueprints of the King Hotel downtown.”
Reggie looked at the blueprints. “I never ….” His voice trailed off as realization dawned. He couldn’t talk; if he opened his mouth at all, even to breathe, he’d vomit all down his front and he’d rather not be so childish in front of his boss.
“You’ve never heard of it because it was torn down before you were even born,” Mr. Field explained, observing Reggie hunching over and growing quite still. He tried to keep his tone as even as possible. If he remained logical, he remained rational, and that kept the fear at bay. “Twenty-seven people were killed inside the hotel over a span of six months back in 1935, its inception. The hotel closed for thirty years before some asshole thought if it was restored and reopened, it’d be a point of interest for macabre tourists the world over. It was; people flocked to the King. The only problem was that not a single guest could last the night. It was haunted. There was talk of demons and poltergeists and hallucinations that were terrifying enough to drive men to suicide.” Mr. Field took a deep breath. “It was torn down five years later, deemed inhabitable.”
“You, Reg, have just recreated it, angle by angle.”