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.
Despite Murphy’s Law almost taking effect, I think the second interview today went well. This morning, I was printing out 16 pictures for my mock lesson – two copies each of eight pictures dealing with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in some aspect. Although I love my printer and think it’s completely awesome that is has the ability to print photo-quality pictures, the process is incredibly time consuming. I only had time to print twelve and my lesson plan before I rushed out the door.
I stopped at Dunkin Donuts before I hit the parkway for an iced French Vanilla coffee, but it was disgusting so I didn’t finish it. I have no one to blame but myself; I still don’t know how to properly order coffee. I’d much rather just make it myself. Because it was iced and because it was hot outside and because my car does not have air conditioning, the plastic cup condensated severely, to the point where it left a puddle in the cup holder. It was a very small puddle, but still a force to be reckoned with apparently, because I set my iPod in the cup holder during my mock lesson and it now has water damage. It’s stuck in the “locked” position and won’t stop playing. I hope it’ll dry out and right itself.
I was about 30 minutes into my drive when I realized I still had Jimmy’s carseat in the back of my truck from yesterday. Spank me hard; Mom totally needed it to take Jimmy to the store with her today because she needed to buy supplies for Mikey since he is going to Boy Scout Summer Camp. I wasn’t going to get home until the afternoon, so she went anyway, strapping Jimmy into the seatbelt and praying she didn’t get a ticket. Thankfully, everything turned out just fine.
Before I got to the high school, I stopped at a Walgreen’s nearby to use the restroom. I wasn’t buying anything, so the only item I brought in with me was my car key, which is a single key. It used to be on a little key chain, but I took it off and I cannot remember why. Anyway, I didn’t have any pockets in my dress and didn’t have my purse with me, so while I was gathering toilet paper, I put the key in my mouth for safe keeping. I didn’t swallow it or anything, but left it dangling precariously between my lips so that it fell into the toilet. I’m not proud of the fact that I retrieved my one and only car key from a public toilet, but it needed to be done.
When I got to the interview, everything went surprisingly well. The woman said my lesson went very, very well. She wanted me to meet with the principal but he was in Trenton, so I’m journeying back tomorrow. To make it even more worthwhile, I’m going to meet Raina for lunch.
She also asked for a writing sample. I had two choices: a prompt from the AP test, or writing about a time I dealt with a difficult and/or challenging student. I haven’t (knock on wood) had a truly difficult and/or challenging student, so I went to with the prompt from the AP test. You had to pick a novel from the list and discuss and analyze how symbolism is used in the novel. You also had to come up with a catchy title. I saw Invisible Man and thought of Ralph Ellison’s novel. I also remembered the light bulbs in his basement apartment. I thought they symbolized his desire to be noticed and in the spotlight, his desire to be separate from his race and seen as a human being rather than be negelected for being a black man, and that fact that the electricity was stolen showed his bitterness and anger turned into a form of rebellion. Wikipedia says the symbolism is that the light is the truth. Ooops. It has also dawned on me that the novel could have been The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. Damnit.
And it isn’t even Friday the 13th. Wow.
The prompt for today has three parts to it, so I’m going to break it down and make it last over three days. Enjoy!
PROMPT: “You accidentally overhear a conversation between two people you’ve never met. The topic of the conversation shocks and dismays you. Write about these conversations and describe how you respond to the content:
- 1. A conversation between two stockbrokers
- 2. A conversation between a priest and a member of his parish
- 3. A conversation between a woman and the man with whom she’s been cheating on her husband
PIECE (#1): I was sitting at the local Starbucks minding my own business, just trying to fit in and be trendy – reading a copy of The New York Times and sipping on an iced coffee. I was perusing the Arts and Literature section, hoping some beautiful and brilliant stranger would notice and comment, and then whisk me off my feet with wonderful conversation. As that had yet to happen, I was susceptible to distractions and more often than not, the word “rape” serves as a ginormous distraction. The word had been uttered in a painful-sounding whisper emitted from a pale and trembling young man. He was sweaty and shaky, but wearing a suit. The contradiction was intriguing, and as discreetly as possible, I began to listen to the unfolding discussion.
“I don’t know, Pete,” the shaky man gulped. “I think we should tell someone about it. I saw her, man. She looked rough; like she’d been in the ring for ten rounds. That’s not right.” At the end of his speaking, he looked down at his trembling hands.
“Are you seriously thinking about going to the cops?” Pete asked, clearly shocked and appalled at the mere idea of involving the proper authorities in whatever mess they were talking about. “What will happen to us, Tom? What about our careers? What about our futures? If we blow the whistle, every accounting firm in the city will blacklist us as squealers and tattletales. We didn’t rape anyone, so why should we be punished?”
My eyes were wide behind my paper. There had been a rape? These two knew about it, and hadn’t done anything about it?
Tom looked up with a pained expression, moving closer to Pete and dropping his voice even lower. “What about her, Pete? What about the girl?”
“What about her?” Pete shot back. “She can go to the authorities. It’s not our affair to be involved in. All we did was attend a party, all right?”
Tears welled in Tom’s eyes. “What if she comes to us for help? What if she needs us to be witnesses and to speak up? What would you say, Pete?” Despite the fact that Tom was clearly depressed and unsure of himself, his question was more challenging than it was rhetorical.
It was now Pete’s turn to drop his gaze. He leaned back in his chair, and his cheeks reddened with shame. He spoke through gritted teeth with a hand almost covering his mouth. “I’m not going to say anything, Tom. You won’t either, if you know what’s good for you.”
I had heard enough. Slowly, I stood. I folded my paper neatly and placed it on the tabletop, beside my unfinished coffee. I turned to my left and walked just a few paces until I was standing in front of Pete. I pulled my hand back and slapped the bastard as hard as I could across the face. Tom jumped to his feet, surprised but not knowing what to do. I leaned forward, nearly spitting in Pete’s face and said, “You’re a monster.”