Alice Is Coming To Town

… and for a mere $725 I can get a front row ‘INSANITY PACKAGE’ for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I like Alice Cooper just fine. In fact, funny story, one of the odd things future hubby (11 days to go) and I have in common is that we’ve both dressed up as Alice Cooper for Halloween. And we’d love to experience his brand of theatrical musical madness in the almost intimate theater (less than 4000 seats) he’ll be performing at next month less than an hour’s drive from our front door, but… $725?!

The Insanity Package does sound pretty damn awesome, I’ll give you that.

FrankenAlice       HeadlessAlice

One front row ticket. VIP early entry into the venue. Exclusive after show Meet & Greet with Alice Cooper. Personal photograph with Alice Cooper. On stage tour prior to Alice’s performance – including a photo with the FrankenAlice and your head in Alice’s guillotine! Autographed Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity. Official Alice Cooper set list. Specially designed Alice Cooper tour shirt. Alice Cooper tote bag. Collectible limited print, Alice Cooper for President tour poster. $50 merchandise voucher to the official Alice Cooper online store. A chance to be chosen to be on stage with Alice Cooper and toss balloons at the end of the show!

But…$725?!

I’d be happy with a couple of those Gold Circle ($75) tickets. First ten rows ain’t too shabby. Again, small venue. We’d be right up there.

Sadly, as with so many things we want to do in life, the timing is bad.

Almost-Hubby had this to say: “Let’s spend the $1450.00 for the two of us on a guitar and Amp and I’ll put on a top hat and play School’s Out.” Now, I’m not negating the musical abilities of my Old Man, but I fail to see where I’d get as much enjoyment out of this idea as he would.

SigningJim  <-NOT Alice Cooper.-> alice

Where’s the boa constrictor? Where’s the guillotine? Where’s the straight-jacket, the smoke, the baby dolls, bloody dismembered body parts and the gallows?! Really, Jim? You think I’m going to fall for this just so you can get a new guitar and amp? I love you, darling, but… no. Besides, my favorite Alice Cooper song is Welcome To My Nightmare, not School’s Out.

It’s pretty clear at this point neither one of us will be spending the night with Alice Cooper any time in the near future. Which, kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do? That’s life. We all wish for a lot of things and as much as I wish this could be a thing, it  won’t be and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Though probably not as outlandish as an Alice Cooper show, our honeymoon is looking like it will be quite the experience, or as we like to call these sorts of things, An Adventure. I finally read the pamphlet that came with our cabin reservation confirmation letter last night to discover that the cabin we reserved on the St. Lawrence up in the Thousand Islands has no A/C, nor are you allowed to sneak in an A/C unit. A fan it is! I hope this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave we’ve been having this summer breaks by then. And though they have cable, they don’t have televisions in the cabins. WiFi is available, but the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure if it reached as far as the cabins. So, we’re resigned to maybe taking along a collection of bad B-movies and renting some porn to watch on the laptop. I think Alice Cooper would approve of those choices. We’re going to wing it most of the time because as much as I do like to plan, being spontaneous can be just as much, if not more, fun!

“If you confine it, you’re confining a whole thing. If you make it spontaneous, so that anything can happen, like we don’t want to confine or restrict anything. What we can do, whatever we can let happen, you just let it happen.” – Alice Cooper.

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Ah, that first English assignment when returning to school after the summer off. How I always looked forward to that moment. Yes, I was a strange child, but I think that was established some time ago and I have since grown up to be a bit left-of-center adult. Now that school is out for the kiddies, my mind drifts back to those care-free days and those two months of pretty much doing as I pleased. Oh, to be that kid again.

When I realized that the “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” writing assignment was pretty much an annual event for English teachers, I began to consider what odd thing I could do to make my assignment stand out from the rest of the Muggle Crowd. (Of course, we didn’t have Muggles back then as these were the pre-Harry Potter days, but you get the idea.) God forbid I should do something entirely normal. I can’t remember all of those summers, but there is one that sticks out in my mind the most. I spent at least three weeks of one particular summer vacation in the nearby cemetery. Well, not full time there, but during the days. I probably would have spent the nights, but I’m sure my parents (as well as the authorities) would have frowned on such a thing.

I’ve never had a fear of cemeteries like so many people do. No idea why. They just aren’t in the least bit scary to me day or night. I’ve always enjoyed wandering among headstones taking pictures and enjoying the peace and restful quiet they offer. On this particular summer, however, I was on a mission.

At least three days a week for nearly a month, I’d load up my Army green backpack with lunch, my little transistor radio, lined paper, graph paper, a supply of pencils and a sharpener, a pen, and my camera in the morning. I’d toss it over my back and hop onto my bike for the mile and a half ride to Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery. Once there, I’d set to work.

I worked my way north to south, west to east, getting deeper and deeper into the cemetery. One by one my graph paper filled with tiny black squares, each marked with its own unique number. Each one set in a sub-divided section of the grounds created by the various roadways throughout. On my lined paper I started with Section 1. Grave #1. And wrote down everything on the headstone associated with that space. My goal was to document and map every headstone in the place. That, to me, was summertime fun!

I couldn’t have been happier or prouder of my time spent there. This was a huge undertaking even for an adult and here I was probably about 12-13 years old doing it all on my own for the mere amusement of the thing. I did eventually complete the project and boy did I have something unusual to write about come September and the inevitable English essay.

Unfortunately, this tale does not have the ending I wish it did. For years I kept that project alive. I’d add black squares and information as new graves were created. But… now, almost forty years later, I have NO idea whatsoever what happened to the folder I had it all in. That really could have been a useful tool for future genealogists! I can’t imagine throwing it out. I can’t imagine either of my parents throwing it out had they come across it over the years. I mean, sheesh, my dad once presented me with a small composition notebook he’d found from my elementary school days full of little stories I’d written as writing assignments!

The years have gone by and I no longer have to write “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essays for English class, but I kind of wish I did. Vacations don’t last for two months anymore and they usually don’t take place in the summer. I’m old and try to escape the New York winters for a couple weeks now.

That isn’t to say that I still don’t enjoy spending some of my summer days wandering through nearby cemeteries taking pictures and enjoying the peace and quiet that being surrounded by the dead brings me. Old habits die hard and I’d rather this one not pass away until I do.

So.. what are your plans for summer vacation?

Featured Image: Berkshire Evergreen Cemetery, Berkshire, NY. Courtesy of the author.

Stepping Stones Across Hell’s Half Acre

It has only taken ten years since the release of my first published novel, but I finally reached a milestone I’ve been dreaming of for much longer than that decade. Last night I had my first book signing event! I got to talk about my progress as a writer, my novels, my inspirations for those novels, and answer questions from the audience. I got free food and even sold 80% of the books I took with me! All while feeling old and youthful at the same time.

As this was a private, local event, the gathering was only around 30 attendees, but among them were several folks from my much younger days! A former grade school teacher, a woman who remembered me from when I was in Headstart, the parents of two girls I went to high school with, and a former baby sitter. Even if they didn’t know me, a lot of them knew my parents! Ah, the world of being ‘a local girl’ as I was called. Yes, to these folks, this 50-year-old was just a girl. They were a fun bunch of ladies and gentlemen and I enjoyed hanging out with them for a few hours talking about books in general. Funny how I work in a large university library and almost never talk to any of my co-workers about what we’re reading. Maybe it just feels too work-related and who wants to talk about work-work? Blech! Not me! Unless it’s away from the office and really has nothing whatsoever to do with my job or most of the people that job pertains to. It’s weird.

I even managed to get a laugh out of them with my opening and the story about how I first realized maybe I wasn’t like the other in Mrs. Dodd’s 3rd grade class. It was in that moment that something deep inside me clicked and my writing dream was born.

So, really, last night was something like 40 years in the making and wishing and dreaming. These things take time and I’ll admit I’ve not always been very patient about it getting here. The writing gig has given me more lows than highs, but the highs are what keeps me going. This may seem like small potatoes to those who are further along in their journey than I am, and I know I’d be jumping the gun if I believed for a moment I’d made the big time with this single and simple event, but it’s one step closer.

A week or so again I posted a Facebook status of “Remind me again why I am doing all this.”  It becomes so frustrating and disappointing at times. You want something so badly and it’s so important to you and you pour so much of yourself into it that when things don’t happen how you hoped and dreamed or as fast as you want, you feel like a complete failure and like giving it all up. You question what’s the point in even trying. Why even bother? No one cares. No one appreciates. No one understands any of this, let alone you, and it seems it’s all for nothing.

Then, something like last night happens. I am forced to remember that day in 3rd grade and a little girl who was terrified she’d done her weekend homework assignment wrong. I am forced to look back at where I was ten years ago in this process. I have to remember how devastated I was when the publisher of my first murder-mystery went out of business and how utterly defeated I felt. All that work … and I’m sent back to Step One again.

But, once I really looked and understood, I knew I wasn’t at Step One at all. My path had merely been diverted by a very annoying and slippery rock that sent me on my ass into the icy cold stream. It took me two years to regroup and in those two years I focused on other projects. I built my resume one little article and a second murder-mystery at a time. I looked back and saw my stepping stones zig-zagging all over Hell’s half acre, but I’d traversed them. I may have slipped, stumbled, crumbled, cried, and cursed, but I mostly FOUGHT my way across those damned stones. I was not about to give up now. I’m too stubborn for that and seeing all the progress I’d made helped, too.

I’ve got at least two more events planned for this year and now that I have the first one under my belt, I’m looking forward to the others even more. Baby steps. This process is not going to happen overnight. The trick is not to let the down times and the imagined failures drag me into the muck of my own raging self-doubts. I will continue to fight for this dream because I don’t know any other way. It’s too much of who I am. I am blessed by being surrounded by those who believe in me when all I really want to do is chuck it all into a bonfire. Words of encouragement are not just words, they are vital to the process that keeps me going when I feel like I just don’t want to anymore.

All that from a simple two-hour event held in the middle of nowhere. Thank you all for your continued support, your kind words, and the opportunity to share and entertain you with my dream. You are each a hand held up out of that crazy stream of life that helps guide me from one stepping stone to the next and I am truly grateful beyond all measure.

Theatre of the Mind

Remember when the radio was actually a source of genuine entertainment instead of something we just turned on for background noise; occasionally singing along while driving, doing housework, or puttering around in the garage? No? Maybe you’re too young, but back when I was a kid, and even more so in the days of my parents, radio was king. The air was full of radio waves that made us laugh along with Amos & Andy or Benny Goodman; or thrilled us with dramas like Charlie Chan or The Avenger. The air waves mystified, thrilled, and chilled us with such programs as Cloak & Dagger, Ellery Queen, and Radio Mystery Theatre. Cowboys like Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger carried young boys and girls off into the Wild West while Buck Rogers sent them into the future.

the-whistler-radio

If you have never listened to radio theatre, you are really missing out. There’s a reason it’s called the Theatre of the Mind. Like reading, radio theatre requires you to use your imagination. Two people sitting side by side listening to the same program are going to experience the story differently and that’s part of the fun. You’re going to see the characters in your own way, the setting will be slightly different to your mind’s eye than your listening partner’s, and you may even interpret the story at a different angle. Personal experiences will color everyone’s interpretation differently. This, I think, is why very often you hear people saying that the book was so much better than the movie. When reading, you let your mind wander and create, just like with radio and few things, imho, can beat that.

Radio theatre, also known as audio dramas or radio dramas, began in the 1920s and became wildly popular into the 1950s. In 1922 The WGY Players out of Schenectady, NY introduced a method of radio theatre that would forever change the art of the craft. They began using music, sound effects, and a regular troupe of actors instead of just simply reading the listeners a story. Other stations quickly caught wind of this and followed suit. This expanded beyond the normal practice of putting on existing well-known plays to employing full-time writers to create original story lines. One of the best known radio programs, broadcast in 1938 by The Mercury Theatre on the Air, was an interpretation of an H.G. Wells classic, War of The Worlds. It’s still wildly popular nearly 80 years later.

Unfortunately, just like “video killed the radio star”, television killed off many radio stars and programs in the early 1960s. Despite that, some programs still remained and new ones were born. The creator of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, created a radio program called Zero Hour for the Mutual Broadcasting System, National Public Radio aired Earplay, and Himan Brown brought us CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and General Mills Radio Adventure Theatre.

Though it has suffered a huge decline since its hay days in the 1920s-1950s, new radio theatre continues to be made. Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, and The Tomorrow People have all been revived into radio programs. In the early 2000’s new episodes of The Twilight Zone aired with moderate success. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was released in 2013 by BBC Radio 4 and featured a cast of well-known film and television actors.

Today, we have Podcasting whose programs are often serialized stories or discussions employing the use of music, sound effects, and a set cast of actors and/or hosts. The big advantage to Podcasts is that you can listen and download what you want to hear any time that’s convenient for you without missing anything. You don’t have to be sitting next to the radio at all! You can listen directly using any device that can store and play audio files. I will confess, I have nearly zero experience and know very little about Podcasting. I’m kind of old fashioned that way.

CBSRMT_CoverV1Exp

But on the bright side, I’m not so old and set in my ways that I don’t know how to manipulate my way around the Internet where I’ve found a plethora of sites offering me the old time radio programs my parents and I grew up listening to. For the past year I’ve been working my way through CBS Radio Mystery Theater which was a huge favorite during my early double-digit years. I’ve only gotten as far as 1975 so far. I’m thinking I’ll move on to Ellery Queen or The Whistler next. In either case, I don’t think I’ll suffer with a lack of things to listen to thanks to the amazing powers of the internet and the foresight people took to preserve these entertainment masterpieces.

So, pull up an easy chair, put on the headphones, check out the aforementioned links as well as those below, and take a trip into your personal Theatre of the Mind.

Radio Lovers

Old Time Radio Downloads

 

Take Time To Enjoy Your Time

Death stalked me and my family this year. In most cases those that passed were people we’d not seen in a good many years. I guess that sort of softened the blows that were dealt. The family dog of 15 years went peacefully in her sleep in April. That was, and still is, tough for us. My dad’s brother passed at the end of August from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. In September two dear people from the Wild West group I was once in were killed in a motorcycle accident. Come November, a cousin’s husband died of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 31. A couple weeks later a cousin was killed in car accident. He was 41. The week after that, another uncle died. I was really hoping that we’d make it through the rest of the year without seeing any more deaths in the family, but this morning I found out yet one more cousin had died at age 51. On top of that I saw the death of English author, Tanith Lee, who was a HUGE inspiration to me on many levels. Christopher Lee died at age 93 this year. Oh, the many hours I watched and pined over that man as Dracula.

This isn’t the most cheerful way to start out an end of year blog post, is it? No, but maybe it will help put things into perspective. We can’t stop death, at least not permanently. It’s going to happen to us all. In the meantime, it’s important we do as much living as we can. I did a lot of living in 2015, a whole lot!

In January I got my long-awaited second tattoo; a very pretty rainbow monarch with my kids’ names around it, done by my daughter, on my right calf.

I’m a planner. It may have seemed way too early to some people, but in February I made hotel reservations for our planned trip the first week of September to White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

March & April brought the urge to purge my life of those material things that no longer bring me joy. I went through three closets, a big dresser, and got rid of more books than I ever dreamed I’d be able to part with.

May saw Jim and I taking our first, and thus far only, group ride together down in the Athens-Wysox area of Pennsylvania with our friend Amy and a friend I went to school with, Kathy, her husband Tim, and about 200+ other bad-ass looking bikers to raise money for breast cancer awareness. The first draft of “No Rest For The Wicked” was completed and the long, yet to be finished series of edits, began.

Along came June and a Father’s Day breakfast spent with my dad on Hiawatha Island. He passed on some words of wisdom that I’d forgotten about until now. He said, “Take time to enjoy your time.” It’s not about things or money; it’s about the moment, the time spent with others, and enjoying whatever it is in life that brings you joy. Words to live by indeed; take time to enjoy your time

July saw the United States pass the Marriage Equality Act giving same-sex couples the right to marry. I really don’t want to start a political or religious debate here about that, but I do need to express that I truly believe that Love is Love. If the Bible is right and we are all created in God’s image, male and female, then it stands to reason that we all have male and female aspects within in us. Some people lean more strongly in one direction or another and there’s nothing wrong with that. Those that are expressing so much hatred, clearly see the teaching of Christ very differently than I do. Christ did not teach hatred. Stop doing things in His name that are so hateful. I do not profess to be a Christian any more than I am Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or any other of the plethora of religions out there. I don’t believe any of them hold the Be-all, End-all answers to anything. What I do believe in is Love and the power of Love in all its forms. I think it’s wrong to tell one group of people that they their love is wrong or an abomination. “There is no greater power in all the world than that of Love.”

In early August I got a call from a member of the Berkshire Reading Club asking if I’d like to be the guest speaker for their annual dinner in May 2016. My brain balked at first, but I’m glad I told my brain to be quiet and accepted it. It made getting something new published more urgent. It spurred me to swallow some of my pride and move in a direction I have forever before resisted going in.

September found Jim and I out west once more. I was finally able to make my own memories of White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once we got home, the adventure still wasn’t over for it was then that Jim proposed and I said yes and I finally got to wear the ring we’d picked out together in Mesilla. If for no other reason, that little ‘village” will forever hold a special place in my heart.

October meant writing, submitting, and being rejected by one publisher after another. I lost track how many queries I sent out. Despite the continued disappointments, I kept on writing new things. By then “No Rest For The Wicked” was out with my proofreader and I was deep into work on “Dark Hollow Road’. This month also saw Jim hitting his first New York State deer.

Along came November and the decision to not only self-publish “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of”, but to do a re-write and re-release of “Blood Of The Scarecrow”, too. We’ve worked hard, Jim and I. I re-read and edited both books again and again. Jim worked on the cover art and set to work re-creating my website. Proofs were obtained. More corrections followed. Apart from the updates to “…Scarecrow” and it being re-titled to “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”, no new writing really took place.

On December 11th, the new book finally made its debut into the big bad world. Granted, the timing of the release may not have been a priority or at all well thought out. Folks were already in the midst of their Christmas shopping and delivery before Christmas was slim unless people ordered almost as soon as the word was out. The important part was to get something we could both be proud of out there.

In conclusion, 2015 has been insane and mostly wonderful! Apart from the numerous deaths, everything has been taking a slow and steady upward trend. Far too many times in the past I’ve looked back at the year that was and felt dismayed, disappointed, and frustrated. This has not been the case in the past few years. There’s clear progress now even if not in the way I thought or hoped it would be in some cases.

2016 promises to be just as interesting and, I hope, even more good and productive things come our way.

New goals are already setting themselves up, not the least of which is a wedding in August.

To read and comment more of the blogs I am subscribed to and improve on my own blogging habits.

To see another new novel unleashed on the world.

To be able to meet some friends I thus far only know via Facebook and Second Life.

Travel always ranks pretty high on my list of things to do. I love seeing new places and doing new things.

We can’t always avoid the negative, like death, but we can control how we deal with it and so my biggest goal of 2016 is to follow my dad’s advice and take time to enjoy my time, wherever, however, and with whomever I get to spend it with.

Road Gators, Vultures & Turkeys, Oh My!

I got me one of those new-fangled ‘smart’ phones about a month back. My previous phone was pretty old, took lousy pictures, and internet was next to impossible. I balked at spending so much on a new phone considering how little I used the old one, but not wanting to fall too far behind in the world of technology and thinking having something better for an upcoming road trip might not be such a bad idea, I bit the bullet and took the plunge.

Miraculously, I was able to transfer my minutes from my old phone to my new and input my contacts all by myself. Over the next two weeks, amongst other things, I learned how to answer my phone! Remember when all you had to do pick it up and say, “Hello?” I wanted to get to know this new piece of equipment as best I could before my teacher, my 23 year-old-son, was no longer available. Amazingly, my computer geek boyfriend’s phone is even more primitive than my old phone! He would be of no help whatsoever.

They say there are two tests that will either make or break a relationship; a building/remodeling project or a road trip. A road trip with a smoker not allowed to smoke in the car and this unfamiliar method of phone GPS promised to be an adventure. I was assured his need to smoke would coincide with my need to use the ladies room. This was not quite how it happened.

Our trip west was just over 1600 miles long one way. He’d traveled the roads twice on his own before and we’d made the journey together one-way a year and a half ago. His trips took two days. Our prior one-way took three, but we were pulling a U-Haul with a car stuffed to the gills. We allowed ourselves the time he’d made it in, two days. It seemed reasonable at the time. It also seemed a simple enough plan to take along lunch and drinks and snacks for the road. These were strategically placed, or so we thought, so that the passenger could easily turn around in their seat and get whatever beverage or edible was wanted.

Long story short, someone had to stop to pee AND have a smoke a whole lot more that there was need of the ladies room. Course, being as my daddy always taught me never to pass up a chance to pee while on the road, I made use of these stops, too. There was no hope of visiting Boggy Creek in Fouke, Arkansas, let alone play at Dinosaur World in Kentucky, but we did see plenty of Road Gators. Clearly we have different priorities when it comes to travel! Next time, damn it! As for those snacks and drinks, ease of retrieval involved undoing ones seat belt, turning around and half crawling into the back seat while your pilot cruised along at about 70 miles-per-hour keeping an eye out for the numerous police cars. Of course, if a cop had been spotted chances are pretty high in our less than nubile conditions, we’d never had made it back into our proper forward-facing seated positions in time. Hot coffee in a foam cup or thermos top was a blast. It was an adventure alright.

Admittedly it took longer than planned. We would like to blame a generous amounts of stop and go traffic due to construction, but I think it had more to do with too much coffee, sore bottoms, tired arms, head and neck aches, full bladders, nicotine fits, leg cramps, hunger and just plain “I’m tired and I’m cranky” moments. We rolled into the driveway of our final destination at about 1:15AM, a good three hours later than we’d hoped.

Our return trip thinking may not have been as well thought out as we’d intended. It’ll be faster if we miss all that construction, right? What’s a couple extra hundred miles, right? We’ll be going faster, right? It’ll be fine. Even if we get in by midnight, that’s alright. Did I mention Jim had to be to work by 2pm the day after we planned on getting home? No? Well… yeah. That’s not quite how it worked out either.

We got off track before we even left Texas! This is where the aforementioned new phone technology comes into play. It seemed a simple enough plan. Instead of going through construction riddled Waco and congested Dallas, we’ll just cut across and head towards Shreveport, Louisiana. Piece’o’cake. ‘Cept somehow we found ourselves heading towards Houston. Why does the car’s compass say we’re headed southeast? Without a paper map, we had to rely on my phone’s GPS which I had used maybe twice before and, of course, ‘Connection To GPS Has Been Lost’. Eventually, it kicked in well enough and long enough for me to figure out where we’d gone wrong and get us back on track, while Jim expertly avoided hitting a flock of five or six vultures dining on road kill armadillo. Past experience told him that it was in our best interest to not be driving around in the Deep South with a dead vulture pressed into the grill of the car.

We zipped through Louisiana and Mississippi like nobody’s business, keeping an eye on the numerous road gators, making certain they weren’t flesh and blood gators. We even stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center and did a touch of site-seeing. Alabama welcomed us and at 9:30 we started looking for motels. By 10:00 our exhausted bodies and brains were settled in. As we unloaded the car, and the loud drone of whatever big and bizarre nocturnal bugs and birds they have in the woods of Alabama buzzed around us, we wondered what State “Deliverance” is supposed to be set in and if we were anywhere near there. (Answer: The remote northern Georgia wilderness on the fictional Cahulawassee River and no.) Course… there’s still Big Foot or Skunk Ape or whatever they call him down there, to deal with!

Our hopes high, we gobbled down hardboiled eggs, blueberry muffins, bananas, and coffee the next morning in the motel room and headed out, bright and early by 7am. Tennessee and Kentucky proved to be our friends. Yeah, we’ve made it to Virginia. I silently wished there was time to visit my cousin in Roanoke. And then, we saw the flashing lights.

“Urgent Message When Flashing” the roadside sign warned and told us where to tune for details. We tuned in. We listened. It didn’t seem to pertain to us. We sallied forth, returning to whatever decent rock station would come in, settling on country as we had to. Several miles later, “Right lane closed ahead. Prepare to stop.” Traffic reports on the radio told us there were delays ahead. We slowed to the pace of a rolling parking lot. Dead still and a walking pace swapped places for the next fifteen to twenty miles, at least. It seemed like a hundred. Jim threatened to get out and walk alongside the car while I drove so he could have a ciggy. It probably wasn’t really such a bad idea. I’m sure we’d have stayed abreast of each other well enough. Thank God neither of us needed to use the restroom.

Over the radio we heard something like this: “The right lane of Interstate 81 North in Botetourt County near mile marker 154 will remain closed until approximately 7 p.m. while crews continue clean up from a tractor-trailer accident. The tractor-trailer was hauling around 2,700 turkeys. Crews on scene are still removing turkeys from the area. Drivers are advised to keep watch for any other birds that may still be loose in the area.” What could we do but burst out laughing? I know, I know. It shouldn’t have been funny at all. Poor terrified turkeys and all, but all I could imagine were turkey running amok along the roadside like some sort of Warner Brother’s cartoon and an incident with my brother when he was just learning to read.

It was a different road trip entirely. I was seven. My brother would have been about ten. We were headed to Florida and suddenly he said, “Well, where are they?” One of my parents asked, “Where are what?” He said, “The chickens.” Confused looks were exchanged. “What chickens?” “The chickens I keep seeing the signs for.” More confused looks took place. He was instructed to point out one of these signs if he saw another and sure enough in only a few more miles he announced triumphantly, “There’s one! See! Speeding chicken by road! So, where are the chickens?” My parents both burst out laughing. “No, honey, that says, ‘Speed Checked By Radar’. My brother was quite disappointed.

We, too, were disappointed in some strange way. Not only did we not see any amok turkeys, speeding or otherwise, by the time we reached the accident site there was nothing but a dusting of white feathers scattered along the road while clean-up crew men picked up traffic cones and freed us to return to full highway speed once more. The Cracker Barrel in Bristol, Virginia fed us and the skies just outside of Winchester delighted us with a beautiful sunset. It was clear by now we were not going to make it home by midnight, not even close. GPS told us we still had five and a half hours to go. Stopping for the night seemed more sensible than getting ourselves killed.

Sleep was short and fitful. I felt so bad for Jim, knowing he was not sleeping any better than I was and that he had to be into work that afternoon. I took first shift driving, hoping he’d be able to get in a couple more hours of sleep at least. I’m pretty sure we were both feeling the stress more than either of us let on. We just wanted to get home.

By noon, we’d passed yet another test of our relationship. I realized along the way that different things about these trips and driving seemed to annoy us. That really worked to our advantage, because when one person was getting antsy and annoyed, the other was able to remain calm and interject some humor into the situation. We make a good team, me thinks.

Now… about that building project.