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.
I must admit that I have been feeling incredibly uninspired as of late. Not only have I utterly and completely fallen off the wagon as it pertains to dieting and exercising, but I have not written anything creative in quite some time. My journal is filled with entries in which I complain about my shortcomings and nothing more. It is a disappointment and again, I berate myself for having nothing to write about because I have not done anything worth writing about. There has been no chance encounter, no startling image, no overheard turn of phrase to fire up my neurons and facilitate some kind of epic brainstorming session.
Then again, that might not be entirely true. The other day, as Dad and I were getting ready to watch “The Following,” (which is an excellent show on FOX starring Kevin Bacon that I am thoroughly obsessed with now) he was making himself a sandwich. As he reached for the loaf of bread in its plastic bag in a drawer beneath the meat slicer, I noticed an unpleasant look of disgust smear itself across his face. He picked up the bag with what seemed like intolerable reluctance and hurried to place it on the kitchen table, looking at his hands in disbelief. Naturally, I asked him what was the matter, and he told me the bag was wet. Intrigued, I removed myself from reclining upon the couch in the living room to investigate. None of the other bags bread, bagels, and rolls was wet. As a matter of fact, I did not notice anything peculiar or out of place about the bread drawer. I looked at Dad and shrugged before moving to examine the bag in question. The top of the bag, near the tie that closed it back up, was wet and there were tiny, red dots of moisture both on the inside and the outside. I was completely baffled and asked Dad what he thought it was. He brought a hand to his face and sniffed. His face went pale and he told me plainly and simply that it was blood. Then, betraying his flair for the dramatic, he told me it smelled like “dead blood.” While it took both my father and I all of ten seconds to figure out that while Mom had been slicing roast beef in her brand new meat slicer, some blood had dripped onto this particular bag of bread and that nothing sinister nor truly creepy had occurred, regardless of how gross it was, I thought it was a great scene to manipulate, twist and dramatize and use.
Similarly, I had a totally bizarre dream the other night. The details have faded and in all honestly, the dream was more like a few weeks ago than “just the other night,” but the main image has resonated and stayed put. It was a royal blue beetle of large proportions, and with legs made of pink, plastic straws, crawling across the face of a female. The beetle began small, walking in meandering lines across the face and out of view. But when the female stranger turned to face me once more, the bug had suddenly become huge and covered a quarter of her face. It seemed so genuine and real, that I wondered if I wasn’t hallucinating more than dreaming. Thinking of hallucinations had me thinking of one of my ideas for my next novel, one involving a man on lithium and I wondered if I couldn’t somehow forge a connection between the two. I suppose it would be fairer for me to say that there has been inspiration, but I have been too lazy to utilize it. I need to be motivated and I promise to you that I am working on it.
I am reading two novels currently (one I kind of hate but have to finish now that I’ve started, but the other is absolutely fabulous) and cannot stop listening to the soundtrack for the upcoming movie “The Great Gatsby.” My obsession has reached new heights, actually, and is not restricted to the compulsive, repetitive playing of the soundtrack. When I visited BookTowne in Manasquan to try and set up an event, I ended up dropping off contact information and buying a t-shirt.
I cannot remember which author it was, but rumor has it that a contemporary novelist would type out The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald whenever he had writer’s block to cure himself of it. I am curious as to whether or not I shouldn’t give it a shot.
I recently ordered a photography book by Eric Meola which features Bruce Springsteen from the year 1977 to the year 1979. Perusing the photographs and reading the lyrics and essays which accompany them, I did feel a creative sort of tingle and briefly pondered returning to the idea for my next novel which was entirely inspired by the Boss.
I am going up to Bloomfield this afternoon for drinks with some friends from college. I am going to catch up with some of the most wonderful and beautiful women I have had the privilege and pleasure of knowing, but also, selfishly, to perhaps be inspired. Perhaps something will happen along the way; why knows? I suppose the point is that no one knows, and that therein lays the point. A very wise colleague of mine, who is unfortunately retiring at the end of the academic year, encouraged me to take risks and I am proud to say I have taken that advice to heart.
It is time to catch up with my life; frankly, it has been long overdue. Every single weekend in April, I have had some obligation – all enjoyable, to be sure – that consumed my only free time, so to speak. With the conclusion of this weekend’s activities, I have a moment to breathe and collect myself, smooth the wrinkles from my clothes, wipe the crumbs and debris away, and tuck bothersome strands of hair behind my ear. I have a precious few seconds to compose myself before Monday starts. It is a wonderful feeling I missed more than I believe I realized.
The first three weekends of this fourth month of the year were all about furthering my professionalism; three workshops dealing with subject matter and the future of the teaching profession. As I said, all of the workshops were useful and I loved meeting colleagues from all over the state, but this last weekend was my favorite because it was filled with love, friends, and romance, and it inspired a few daydreams to implement when I am in danger of bleeding out from boredom.
Friday night was Christine’s wedding and it was breathtaking. I genuinely believed I was witnessing some sort of fairy tale brought to life before me. Christine looked positively gorgeous and as twilight fell upon the meticulously manicured grounds of the estate, I felt all the wind rush around me and out of me, vacating my lungs like rats on a sinking ship. I know it is a crude analogy that does not really fit with the rest of the image, but I suppose that is the point, precisely what I’m going for. I feel sheepish admitting, no matter how silly or common it may be, that in that moment of Christine’s complete happiness and beauty, I succumbed to a sudden, vicious and crippling attack of loneliness. There I was, surrounded by all the things in life that should be celebrated and that make all the unfortunate events in between worth it, and I could think only of myself and only of the negative. I am not proud of it, but there it was all the same and unsure of what else to do, I cried. I cried for how pathetic I am, for how beautiful Christine was, for how happy her and James were and are and always will be, for the friends around me, for the lights and the decorations and the love and the smiles and the good food – I cried for all of it.
Saturday was Liz’s bridal shower. It was held at an adorable place called Café Paris in Metuchen. I went to the shower straight from the hotel where I stayed at for Christine’s wedding, so I looked less than spectacular, especially since I had fallen asleep without washing my face. Mascara caked inside my eyelids and as a result, my eyes were bloodshot. I can only imagine what kind of first impression I made. I would be more horrified but since I knew the people I was sitting with, it could have been worse. Lauren, Lindsay and Christina are all happily in love, and Meghan is planning her wedding. I slung back mimosas. Tim and Liz are two of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege, honor, and blessing of meeting. Both – Tim in particular – shaped me into the woman I am today. They introduced me to an amazing organization and collection of people that taught and inspired and supported me more so than I ever deserved. Tim and Liz getting married is evidence that sometimes, good things do happen to good people and that love is alive and well. It makes me happy and it makes me cry.
Today, during mass, the priest blessed a couple who had been married for 60 years. I turned to my little brother and smiled. I wonder if he thinks it’s weird that I’ve never brought anyone home to meet Mom and Dad. I wonder if what he wonders even matters. I wonder if the blessing was a sign from God that it is going to happen for me one day, or if it was just a coincidence that I was surrounded by marriage all weekend. I wonder if this all stems from that hormonal time of the month, a beer or two too many, watching “When Harry Met Sally” alone in an empty hotel room after the wedding, or because my next novel idea is about an engagement that is wrecked irreparably. Do I want to wreck it because I am bitter, lonely and resentful, or because I honestly think the plot is entertaining?
I worry that I am a broken record; I know this is not my first blog entry of this nature and I am can confidently guarantee it will not be the last. Is that a bad thing? Am I throwing another spontaneous pity party? Am I sticking to what I know because it’s comfortable?
I need to start living – meeting new people, experiencing new things.