Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for March 2012

Work-from-home day reprieve for intrepid commuter

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Something new that is catching on with me is this work-from-home model that other folks have been trying all along. I’m an excellent non-commuter, even though I miss the wild sights of the Big City. When I work from home, I am not without companionship and lively, unusual sights. My adoring and adorable hounds, Patsy and Tucker, are my biggest fans. They love everything I write because they love everything I do. They hang on my every word, would rather be with me than anyone else in the world and find me smart and worthy of attention. They are great ego boosts for an angst-ridden writer.

They have a bit of an internal clock that rouses them at mid-morning and mid-afternoon to come sniffing after me for some action. Patsy is not a respecter of creativity and does not remotely care if I happen to be on an excellent idea spurt.

If it gets to be too much and they are not calmed by mere biscuits, we walk out to the gully for a break from the grind.  Or, if the gully is too muddy, we will stick to the streets. On a recent outing to my neighborhood park, I was surprised to spot some cougar action. I’ve seen coyotes in my neighborhood but never a cougar. Of course, this cougar was of the two-legged variety. “Ick,” you say, and I agree. This was a woman in her 40s making out with a young guy who I know for a fact only graduated from high school in the last few years. “Ick,” you say again.

Me and my hounds did not support their tryst in the least nor did we slink away so they continue their PDA. After all, it was mid-day, mid-week, mid-park. We plopped down on a nearby bench and proceeded to change the ambiance from romantic, nature-filled make-out session to clomping, barking and squirrel chasing session. At one point, I think Tucker jumped between the two, right behind a squirrel bouncing from low-hanging branch to higher-hanging branch.

Clearly I need to work from home more often so that I can monitor the inappropriate goings-on in my neighborhood.


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March 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Weekend in bloom

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Everywhere I traveled this weekend — on two and four wheels — was filled with the sounds and sights of nature in bloom. Seems I’ve grown to appreciate more and more the lives of growing things of all types whether it’s animal, mineral or vegetable. I have this wondrous, lush life that brings me from one of the greenest, tropical suburbs in the world to a huge city of concrete and wonder mostly wrought by the hands of creative, energetic people.

I tell folks that I was raised in a newsroom, and that experience gave me the single most important skill I will have for life — the sense of observation. My superpower is my nose for news. My ability to spot something out of the ordinary. Which one is different from the other one? What is happening today that didn’t happen yesterday? What is that noise? Is that new? Is it consistent? Who is that person? What are they doing? Are they famous? Should they be famous?

I also love it all. I find it all shockingly interesting and entertaining. Front page. The hummingbirds are back for the season. This unique new petunia is colored like a bumble bee.  This beautiful iridescent blue bird is a purple martin.  This poor bullfrog croaked all night and then started back up in the morning. This stealthy red-shouldered hawk snatched a squirrel from the roof and flew him screaming across the gully. This steely blue falcon exploded the unlucky pigeon in the middle of the medical center.  This basement alley cat with its shiny coat stalks a grackle and drags it underground for dinner.

Nature is the original reality TV.

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March 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Last starfighter in training

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I’m a bit of an astronomer, a major star gazer and a grown up who loves sci-fi. Therefore, one of the most intriguing sights on my daily commute is the Galaxy Motel with its deep blue sign covered in shiny white stars. Along this highway dotted with express accommodations of a serial non-variety, it is a wisp of whimsy in the concrete jungle.

The old reporter in me would stop and get the story. I always believed there was one on every corner and at least one in every person.  Why Galaxy Motel? Who are these owners who have stepped out of Earthly norms? Who are the folks who choose the unknown over the known? And is the last starfighter training there?

You remember the old movie, the Last Starfighter. Two poor kids who live in a trailer park called Starlight Starbright have a big love and unique talents that allow them to save the world and escape their circumstances.

 So far I haven’t stopped to find out the real story of this cool motel. I still let Vinnie fly me and my imagination into the galaxy where we are the last chance for humanity to be saved from invasion – at least until we get to the med center.

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March 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm

A third option

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My hound dogs Patsy and Tucker are never a third option in my mind. They are always no. 1. But they are not commuters and don’t even like to ride in the car to the park, although I’ve recently bought some steps for old girl Patsy so we can go riding occasionally. But on a terrible rainy day in Houston when I’ve spent about three hours in the car with no unusual commuter sights and just trying to stay alive, we like nothing better than to get out in the neighborhood for a bit of a rainy day dog walk.

Fun with fungi

Tuesday’s walk was worth it simply because of the huge triple-decker mushroom that had sprouted on my neighbor’s tree during the rainstorm. I can attest that it was not there on my departure at 7 a.m. Then, 12 hours later, I spy something odd and knew that I initially believe is some new yard art. And, in fact, that is exactly what it is. A beautiful and mysterious wonder of natures. Photos courtesy of Big Johnny who was forced from the warm and dry into the dank and moldy.

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March 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Road Warrior Vinny

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Vinny is ready for a canoe ride.

I have spent more time in the last 10 years with Vinny the hot red Nissan Xterra than I have with any other vehicle, creature, person, etc., in my life. He has protected me through four car crashes in Big City traffic, including the last one with a cardiovascular surgeon whose Lexus had to be towed away as we drove off to make it to work on time. Not to mention the earlier wrecks with folks who were more likely to be on the other side of the scalpel in my daily trek to the Texas Medical Center

I am irrationally attached to Vinny as I am to all of the named entities in my life. That’s why I’m having a hard time realizing we may be riding our last miles together as we cross the 160,000 mile mark.

When he passed inspection this year, I wept. My longtime mechanic and friend Dan – of Dan and Derrick and the old Texaco – also seemed to be a bit choked up at my enthusiasm. These are the guys who recommended a Nissan Xterra for me just a couple of years after the model was first marketed in 2000. This recommendation came after Dan begged me, “Please don’t make us fix your van again.” See, I do get attached.

Vinny has become exactly what I need for the 30-mile commute to the Big City every day. After being shiny and new for a couple of years, he is now the road warrior I always needed to get me through traffic and high water of a Big City that is flood prone. He sits up high so that I can view my domain and the whizzing 18-wheelers and lane weavers. He’s tough and resilient, fending off flying debris from big trucks in front of us. Sitting all day in a crowded lot in the medical center where aggressive parkers may or may not give him a smack.  

Can’t imaging going back to something shiny and new and precious.  Something that can’t take a curb, a median, a pothole or make a u-y at the sign of upcoming disaster. Something that has to be tended to, put in the shade and parked far from the entrance.

So I am hoping for smooth roads ahead. Both Vinny and I will hold on as long as possible.

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March 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Road trip to Shreveport

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 I had just typed Isle of Capris into my GPS when my conscience called. “How are you,” Big Johnny asked, and I reprogrammed for home.  It didn’t take another 15 minutes before I’d recrossed the Texas border — several crisp twenties still burning a hole in my backpack. Too bad. My fortune still awaits me in the slots of Louisiana or Vegas.

This was not a road trip to fortune; it was a revisiting of my gold mine of memories. I met my girlhood friend and her sister for their family celebration of their mom’s long and eventful life on earth and crossover to a heavenly new dawn.

How lucky I am to be included in this wild and raucous group of kids, grand kids, friends and neighbors who have been a part of my life  for over a half century. And how appropriate that this three-day wake would fall on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Texas wildflowers were in full bloom for the trip both ways. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, lovely purples and yellows. Photos by Big Johnny who wasn’t along for the trip but who sent me these lovely photos from his travels.

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March 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Denise Bray Hensley

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March 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm