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 have to be at the high school around 7:30AM tomorrow. I really am excited for the school year and to be teaching full-time. The only aspect I’m currently apprehensive about is waking up before 9:30AM, as has been my habit the last month. Also, I’ve been suffering from insomnia lately, tossing and turning for at least an hour before falling asleep that is restless and broken. More often than not, I pop an irritated open to see the neon green lights of my alarm clock glowing an absurdly early time. I know I will be exhausted, but I’ll just have to power through it; no big deal.
Well, I say it’s no big deal but that is easier said than done. I know my anxiety comes from the upcoming academic year and I have yet to figure out how to master my own emotions. Does that come with age, or does that elude us all for forever and ever, amen?
I finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth today. It was highly entertaining and there were times where I had to physically force myself to put it down. The characters were well-developed and I admired the allegorical aspect of the novel, as well as the adult themes that were presented and successfully tackled, despite the novel’s Young Adult label. I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series, and I’m not sure if that fact detracts from my glowing review.
I started running again. My goal is to be able to go to where the pavement ends, and then back again. I was able to do it about a year ago, and I remember how amazing it felt to be sore, to try on clothes and have them fit, and to feel pretty. I did gain back some of the weight I lost, but the trick is to not let it get me down, and to stop the bleeding; start losing instead of continuing to gain. My mantra this time around is “I want to look the way I want to feel when the man I love takes me in his arms.” I know my friends will say that I shouldn’t lose weight to impress the opposite sex, and that it is a personal decision I should make for myself, and they are right. But I am also a realist; how will anyone find me attractive if I don’t even find myself attractive? There is a certain kind of confidence and appeal that goes along with looking good and feeling good. That is what I’m truly after.
I haven’t heard anything about the editing process for my novel, so I sent an e-mail politely asking for an updated. In turn, I will keep you all updated. I’m anxious to hold a copy in my hand, to begin marketing myself and my dream and my passion.
I love when I walk into my bedroom and “Thunder Road” is playing.
PROMPT: “I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage. And a beer, if you’ve got one.”
PIECE: I watched the man in the paint-splattered jeans mosey on up to the counter, his flannel shirt stretched tight across a pronounced belly. His trucker hat sported greasy thumbprints along the brim, and he could use a good shave. I smiled brightly enough, always keeping tips in mind, even though I had dismissed him as a vagrant, as just another truck driver passing through. Their faces seldom repeated, though their stories were eerily similar. They’d been on the road for months and were either running back home, or running from their loneliness. The trick to handling such customers, and how to get awesome tips, was to listen patiently with a sad, but understanding smile. These guys ate it up every time. Oozing confidence in my pheromones – or at least, I felt like I was – I walked in front of the man who had just entered the diner, immediately pouring him a cup of coffee. Not yet meeting his eyes, I smiled wide and asked, “What can I get for you today, buddy?” Buddy was an excellent moniker; truckers used it among themselves regularly, so it helped me give the impression that I was an insider, almost one of them.
“I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage. And a beer, if you’ve got one.”
I stopped pouring, even though the cup was nowhere near full. Wide-eyed and bearing an incredulous smile, I met the trucker’s eyes and let a small laugh escape me. He had to be kidding. It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. “A beer?” I asked, repeating his order so he could hear it back and recognize the insanity within.
“Yeah, if you’ve got one,” he said, cool as could be, like it was the most normal thing in the world to order at the breakfast counter in a diner in a small town before the hour of nine.
“Um,” I say, trying to be careful with my words and being unable to stop myself, “it’s not even nine o’clock, yet.”
The trucker smiled and dropped his gaze. It wasn’t an act of submission; it seemed to me like he was feigning humility, like he was finally acknowledging the social taboo he was committing. “Darling, if you knew the night I’d had, you wouldn’t begrudge me a beer.” His eyes rose to meet mine, and at the utter sadness that tinged the edges, I felt my heart ache. Whatever had happened to this man was terrible, and he believed it warranted a beer. Who was I to argue? Besides, I was looking to cash in on the tip and the first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right.
“Let me see what I can do,” I offered. Before I hurried to the back, I finished pouring his coffee, set out the creamers and sugar, and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. I asked Rick, the manager, if it’d be okay and Rick poked his head out from the swinging doors of the kitchen, scanning the counter. His assessment of the man must have been that he seemed harmless enough, because Rick nodded and then promptly continued shouting at the kitchen staff. I left to the sanctuary that was the fridge and grabbed an amber bottle. Lucky for me, we only carried one brand. I returned before the customer with the odd request, opened the bottle using the hem of my uniform and handed it to him. “Here you are,” I smiled.
“Thanks, darling; this is greatly appreciated.” The man drank from the bottle like he had never done so before and never would again; like that beer in that diner was all that mattered. I watched him with growing fascination and growing curiosity.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that gave you such a thirst so early in the morning?” I lean against the counter casually, so it looks like I’m talking to a friend with genuine concern, rather than humoring a customer.
His eyes roam over me, but not in a creepy, perverted way. He was measuring me up, trying to make sense of me. His brows furrowed for a moment before he said, “How about you run and put my order in and then I’ll tell you all about it?”
I blush deeply – what a rookie mistake – and quickly scrawl a ticket, running it back to the line. When I return, the customer who has so consumed me is drinking again, drinking deeply from the beer bottle. The coffee remains untouched. I grin, perhaps admittedly somewhat impressed by such a display of manly tolerance, and resume my lean. “Okay; I’m all ears.”
He set the bottle down and preferred to tear at the already peeling label, soaked from condensation, rather than make eye contact. “Well, darling, if I am to be perfectly honest – and that is something I pride myself on – then I was on a romantic date with a pretty young thing, not unlike yourself.” I smiled and bowed my head in recognition, just like I was expected to. I’m not sure if he saw it because he was so preoccupied with getting the entire label off cleanly, in one long, exaggerated rip. “I got myself all dolled up. I bought new cologne and everything, had the flowers and the candy all ready and raring to go, and would you believe it? She never showed.”
I gasped dramatically. “You’re kidding,” I said.
“I wish I was, darling; I wish I was.” He paused a moment, maybe to collect his thoughts or to let the weight of his sentiment settle properly over the conversation. “I was hurt, like any man would be. I felt I deserved an explanation. So I drive over there and I’m going to knock on her door when I notice the curtains for the front window are wide open and that I can see into her living room. I look – I couldn’t help it – and there she is, sucking on the neck of some guy I had never seen before.”
I frowned, offering up my sympathies. I asked, “Had you been together long?”
“We had been closing in on a year. I thought I was going to marry that woman and have a beautiful family. But she had other plans, and boy, did I feel like a fool. I needed to give her and him a piece of my mind, so I banged on the door.” The label came off in a loud, aggressive tear and I jumped, startled by the sound. He didn’t look to me. He kept staring at the bottle and when he spoke next, it was in a dead sounding tone. “She let me in and I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead- I mean, loud enough to wake the neighbors. I grabbed her shoulders but I didn’t do it hard, just so I knew I had her full attention, and that’s when the guy came up behind me and started choking me, pulling me back.” He looked to me and he must have seen something in my eyes and in my expression that verified the authenticity of my attention. He leaned forward. “Do you know what I did next, darling?”
I shook my head.
“I killed them both.”
I leaned back from him, terrified. Rationale and logic returned soon, and I smiled, though it was most certainly skeptical and didn’t quite meet my eyes. “You’re putting me on,” I accused, though I did my best to keep my tone playful. His expression didn’t change – it was still intense and terrifying – but I threw my head back and laughed. There was no way he was a murderer. There was no way I was in any danger. Those things only happened in melodramas created for the television, cinema and literary scene. “Oh boy,” I said, laughter subsiding, “you had me going there.” I slapped the counter with my palm. “I’ll go check on your omelet and sausage. I’ll be right back.” I offered him a wink and departed.
As soon as I was out of his sight, my knees buckled and I had to grip the nearest counter edge for support. Rick heard the metallic clatter and turned. He nearly ran to my side and grabbed my elbows, raising me to my feet and offering support. “What happened, Angel? Are you okay?”
“That guy,” I said, suddenly breathless and feeling like I could wail, “that guy who ordered the beer, just confessed to killing two people.”
I expected Rick to do what I did; to laugh and dismiss it as insanity, but something about my appearance must have scared him. “Where is he?” he asked.
“He’s sitting at the counter – he’s the only one there.”
Rick left me momentarily and when he returned, he looked confused. I could understand – the guy looked like any other driver, weary from the road and looking for a meal. He slipped his fingers under my chin and raised it, ensuring we were making full eye contact. He licked his lips, like his mouth had suddenly gone dry, and he said, “Angel, there isn’t anyone at the counter.”