commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘Commuter Chronicles

A road trip in time

leave a comment »

Just last week, I told this story of my gambling Uncle Richie and the road trip I made alone to his funeral. This is one of my favorites, told in the days when both my oldest brother and mom were still alive and when we’d first begun to lose treasured family members. I come by my commuting naturally and as a lover of a good road trip.

Services for Uncle Richie

DENISE BRAY HENSLEY
PUBLICATION: Houston Chronicle
SECTION: TEXAS MAGAZINE

DATE: SEPTEMBER 20, 1992

 I scrawled the directions on a piece of paper near the telephone, my husband — in the background — more incredulous all the time.

“You’re gonna turn at Aunt Bessie’s old place,” the voice on the line said.

“But I don’t know where she lives. You know, I haven’t been out there since I was just a kid.”

 

“You’ll know it by that blue Chevy parked in the yard,” he explained.
“You sure her car’ll be there?”
“It’s been there for at least 20 years,” said my oldest brother who was giving me directions to the cemetery in East Texas where my uncle was to be buried. My husband, on the other hand and not two steps away, was giving me grief for even thinking about trying to find it.
Half the drive was a two-lane highway; the other half was red-dirt roads only traveled by the people who lived down them. My last obvious landmark would be the Arcadia Four Corners Grocery, a store that never had much business, and by now was long closed.
A battered, lone stop sign still marked the crossroads in front of the Four Corners, although the chance of two cars being in the same area at the same time was — as they say in this part of the country — slim and none.
I had been in that store a lifetime ago. My family occasionally stopped there on our way to my grandmother’s house, a place where we chased chickens and milked cows.
As a visitor from civilization, I was never comfortable with the bathroom out back or the black potbelly stove that dominated the living room. I did, however, manage a taste for the sweet well water we drank from a dipper after the silt had settled to the bottom.
I always bought grape Nehi soda at the Four Corners and poured peanuts in it — not because I liked the taste, but because it was the East Texas thing to do. Friends today ask me, “What was the point?” And I can’t really tell them. It made the grape soda salty and no longer refreshing, and it made the peanuts — washed by the soda — rather bland. The only fun was the foam, caused by the salt in the carbonation. But that wasn’t even much fun when the indelible grape soda foam washed onto my clothes. I never did it unless we were visiting the country from our home in what my mother considered the city.
“You’ll come to a `Y’ and you need to stay right,” my brother continued. “You’ll take the second road to the left. It’s down quite a ways.”
“How will I know if I’m going right?” I asked. My husband, still pacing in the kitchen, shouted, “Why don’t you use the mobile phone in Bessie’s car to call for help?”
I cut him a look while the voice on the phone said, “Well, if you come to an old burned up barn, you’ve gone too far. Turn around and come back.”
In the end, I decided it would be best for me to go too far, then come back.
uncle-richieMy uncle had been the kind of person most families kept in the closet. In mine, he was a hero. We all wanted to be at the funeral.
Uncle Richie was my mother’s baby brother, although he looked much older. He was sick or dying for years, and there was much speculation about how much of his original organs remained after the hard life he’d led. We were certain he’d lost one lung to cancer. Despite that fact, he continued to smoke and cough, sometimes falling into breathless, ragged attacks as he exhaled a long drag from a filterless cigarette. His illness never stopped him until the last year of his life.
His body, always weak and frail, was a contradiction to the reckless, carefree life everyone said he lived.
I am the youngest of six children, and my memories are shaded by the eyes of a child and remembered as legends told in a family.
In one of my few personal experiences with Uncle Richie, he breezed into town in a huge pink convertible. The car seemed the size of a living room with buttons everywhere for making windows and seats go up and down. We all took a ride around the block with the top down, a one-car parade, waving to our neighbors.
My brothers, all three of whom have a Texas passion for vehicles, tell me Uncle Richie had two separate pink 1955 convertibles — a Plymouth and a Ford. One had a hardtop that rolled down into the trunk with the push of a button. We still have a picture of Richie — taken in the late ’50s — on the hood of a convertible. He’s wearing baggy pants, a sleeveless T-shirt and a hat, cocked on the side of his head. He looks carefree and full of fun. It’s the way I most want to remember him.
It’s that man, perched on the convertible, who must have been a draw for the ladies. By last count, he married eight times — the first time on a dare. The women were mostly redheads, voluptuous and crazy. The family rumor mill had most of these women on their way to or from mental institutions, both before and after relationships with Richie, which only added to his curious stature.
I remember most the beautiful, seemingly worldly, Lottie Jo. She smelled of fields of flowers and Juicy Fruit chewing gum. She wore billowing, soft clothes with blouses that hung off both shoulders, showing sprays and sprays of red-brown freckles the same color as her hair. She was the mother of at least two of his children — my cousins — who, by the time Uncle Richie was dying and they were contacted, wanted nothing to do with him.
All Richie’s relationships seemed to end violently and with threats of murder and mayhem — all from women. One burned his new home as it was being built at my grandmother’s home place. Another threatened to burn my mother’s home, and that must have been near the end of his life as he became more and more bedridden in a back room that once had been mine.
Uncle Richie made a living gambling, but it was hardly a living, as my mother said, and his unreliable lifestyle was the downfall of all his marriages. Gambling, however, was the true love of his life.
There were stories of a suitcase filled with cash on one visit, while the next trip my mother would complain he was in town to borrow money. Of all the people who borrowed money from my mother, he was the most likely to pay her back.”Oh, he forgot about a little,” my mother said. “But not much. Everyone forgets a little bit. He was just like one of the kids.”
Many years ago, Mother bought her younger brother enough clothes to go to Las Vegas for a stint as a card dealer. It was the longest period of time when he was out of our lives.
Later, when he came back to Texas after allegedly being run out of Vegas, he was among an anti-elite group of gamblers who seemed to know about any game in town. He played in barrooms, trailer houses and back alleys. It was a shock to me as an adult to be told these little towns could draw regular, semi-high-stakes card games. It couldn’t have been the glitzy scene portrayed in movies, but there were still fortunes made and lost, and shots were still fired when someone felt wronged. In Richie’ s case, the shots were most often fired at him and not by him.
“He didn’t play a straight game,” they said of my Uncle Richie.
He had his own brand of ethics, though, and one of his rules concerned the big cities. He steered clear of Houston and thought the people much too cold and calculating. He told the story of a game one night in a Houston bar where someone came looking for a hit man. Richie said he watched as others at his table flipped a coin and decided who would do the killing.
“I never knew if it was the winner or the loser who got the job,” he said later.
So, it was a damp Texas morning when I drove my own convertible to Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Shelby County, between Center and Timpson, to say goodbye to the family legend. I retraced a route I hadn’t seen for more than 20 years and had never driven alone.
The dirt roads could no longer have been familiar, but I was drawn in the right direction and never made a wrong turn. It just took me a long, long time to get there.
My mother said she was so surprised to look up and see I was there, just as she and others started to make their way to Uncle Richie’s gravesite.
I couldn’t have been any later and still made it on time.
My mother was in her element with these country people. The suburban town she’d lived in for my lifetime was not her home. This was. Everyone was related in some way or another to her — to me.
I stood among the pine trees and the graves and heard my uncle called a Texas pioneer. All the sins of his life were forgotten and he was honored for his roots. The mournful crowd heard solemn words, but I preferred to think of Uncle Richie with a gleam in his eye and an ace up his sleeve. Life was a game for him, and how he loved the game.

 

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 16, 2016 at 9:31 pm

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”

with one comment

I was standing in the grocery store the other day when I noticed I was standing in the grocery store.

At a crowded meeting, I started looking for an empty chair and realized I didn’t need to sit.

I was looking for my kitchen step ladder when my brain told me I could climb up on a chair instead — like I always used to do before step ladders became a way of life.

When I walk my dog, Tucker, I actually am walking him the two miles or so. I used to say this but actually was biking while he ran along beside me.

Recently I jumped for witnesses in the hardware store, and they applauded. It was only about six inches off the ground and felt like I was lifting two bulldozers, but both of my feet were off the ground at the same time for a nano second.

hallwayMy office is down a long hallway that seemed, for many years, to be miles away. Today, it feels like only a few steps. I willingly go back to my car in the parking lot when I forget something. Unheard of for the last 10 years.

My first surgery to replace my right knee took place a year ago. Happy birthday, Righty.  My left knee surgery is four months behind it — so, by the end of the year, surely I will start writing about commuting again and stop giving you such an awestruck and amazed accounting of this journey to health.

One of the biggest surprises in this replacement of two knees in four months is the power of the brain and thought. My brain is such a partner to me in all my physical intentions. It is a miraculous machine, giving me sudden signals and changing realities every day.

My path appeared shorter when my walking skills were improved. My hobbled habit told me I  wanted a chair when my legs told me I was OK now and could stand awhile. Lately, my brain has been giving me signals on my walks to run a bit — something I honestly never did in the past. So I don’t know who my brain thinks I am but it certainly thinks I can run some.

Lately, I’ve tried standing in front of a mirror to kneel. My knees are still numb and I can’t really feel it when I kneel. It makes it hard to do and, honestly, the only residual pain left since before I got my bionic knees. So I’m trying to trick my brain into recovering feeling in my numb knees. My doctor and nurse tell me that this is a trick used to teach people with lost limbs. If your missing leg is itching, it sometimes helps to stand halfway in a full length mirror so that you appear to be whole again and scratch the remaining leg. Who knew? But, I’m thinking it’s helping me recover feeling in my artificial knees — both of which have remaining areas of numbness.

long_staircaseI get up from my desk job and walk several times a day now. I take the stairs instead of elevators and recently walked up 10 flights of stairs, according to my health app.  I walk to lunch spots that were drives for me in the past. I can keep up with even the most fast-walking of all my friends.

Oh and I’ve even taken a few tennis lessons lately. Tennis is one of the main reasons I had terrible knees in the first place, and I hadn’t played much for 10 years. I see other women on the courts with various forms of knee braces. That was me before. But now, these bionic knees won’t be helped by a wrap or a brace. They are the only thing on my body that doesn’t hurt after a tennis lesson. I’m not saying I’ll get back in the game entirely. I’m still wearing old lady tennis shorts and using  borrowed racket. But it could happen for fun.

Think I might could even travel and do some sightseeing. Last time I took my kids to Washington, D.C., they can tell you what a lug I’d become on a vacation. Who knew? It was the beginning of my realization that my lifestyle had changed because of chronic knee pain.

“Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” But you certainly know when you get it back, Joni Mitchell.

 

 

 

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

Accidental swim reminds me of Carnegie Hall

with one comment

carnegie hall

I accidentally swam in my jammies yesterday. It came about quite innocently and, as we now say in the business world, “organically.” That means it evolves naturally and without a specific plan in mind and without anyone noticing or raising a ruckus.  “Organically” is a good thing, both personally and business-wide. So, here’s what happened.

I went into the backyard early early so that I could beat the Texas heat to my flower garden. I did some snipping, some watering and some weeding but was not at all sweating or glistening. I write this because I was not drawn to the water as a cool down as I have after bike riding in the middle of the summer. It was a perfect morning. Temperature still in the 70s and comfortably windy. Birds singing, frogs croaking off at the distance, no mosquitos or flies awakened just yet. I was one with nature and my backyard.

As I headed back inside for some indoor chores, I thought what a shame it was to go back inside when I’m seldom out so early unless I’m in the car commuting. Happens that this week I’ve taken a much needed stay-cation to recover and refresh from an arduous year of knee surgeries – two for me and one for my husband. So, instead of “getting away” for an island vacation (I always prefer the beach to the mountains), I’ve decided to stay home and enjoy the luxury of my own pool (still new from last year). My plan for the week is to read, float and sip umbrella drinks made by my own cabana boy. If I remotely attempt to clean a garage or an attic or sign on to work, I will be much embarrassed at my own lack of discipline at not allowing myself to be lazy. This Type A personality can certainly relax on command.

So I kicked off my Crocs and put my feet in the water. Before knee surgery, this itself would have been a production of Broadway standards. I couldn’t remotely get to the first step of the pool last year without first pulling over a chair or a bench for leverage.

Thus, I found myself sitting on the side of the pool, feet dangling in the refreshing turquoise water – still wearing my jammies.

It happens, too, that I was wearing hand-me-down jammies from my daughter. These are black and white musical notes over a too large t-shirt with the only color being “Carnegie Hall,” written in red on the left side where your shirt pocket would go. I never sang at Carnegie Hall but Laura did as a high school senior. We bought these jammies as a souvenir and, later in life when she went off to college; I found them in a pile of clothes to be handed off to Society of St. Stephens, our church’s donation center.

I had even written a story about the trip for the cover of the Houston Chronicle’s lifestyle page. It was spring of 2001 before the world would change that September. It’s still a story and adventure I love to reread, although it’s shaded by the circumstances of seeing the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers only months before they fell.

http://www.chron.com/life/article/Carnegie-Hall-appearance-teaches-lesson-in-2048894.php

Of course, I couldn’t give up Laura’s Carnegie Hall jammies even if she was ready to move on. So, they went into my jammie stash.

Back in the backyard, I waded for a while on the first step of the pool and then ventured to the second. I eventually sat on the edge and dangled my feet, thinking the water was a bit brisk. While the old lady in me was feeling pretty cold, the organic part of me tossed aside my glasses and dove in head first. I was underwater, swimming with no contacts or goggles and relatively unencumbered, and that’s how I stayed for the next hour or so. I had no towel, no book to read, no electronics and no glasses or contacts. Pretty uninhibited for a change.

Today, I’ve started a new habit for staycation. When I get up, I put on my bathing suit first thing. It’s not that I minded swimming in my pajamas, and, as a matter of fact, I quite enjoyed it. However, at some point when you’re not in appropriate bathing suit attire, it gets late enough in the day that it’s a bit awkward to get out of the pool.If I truly want to spend the day in the pool, I have to be a bit more prepared.

 

 

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

May 31, 2016 at 7:34 am

Here’s a shocker: Houstonians wasted more time in traffic in 2015

leave a comment »

Let’s start with me. Yes, I’ve wasted more time in traffic this year than last year and that is despite being off on medical leave and working from home for an unusual three months and two new knees of the year. I knew before this report that my commute has increased since I first started making a regular trek to the big city more than two decades ago.  Ask my suburban friends who are appalled at the two hours I spend to and fro work every day. I’ve been saying that my commute has increased a lot lately.

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

When I agreed to this gig, my commute was 45 minutes or less. Heck, when I used to teach at University of Houston at night, I gave myself 35 minutes to get to campus from my Livable Forest home, leaving my toddlers with their father who was home from his day job. But then, none of my UH students ever cared if I was on time or even absent. Such is the life of an adjunct professor.  And I had a silver convertible — also named Streak, like my current road bike. It was fun to drive home in the open air to find the kids asleep and the husband mellow. Today, it’s much different. As an empty-nester with a cool new swimming pool, great garden of flowers and a husband who is an inventive cook, I have a lot waiting for me at home.

I hated to see it counted in specifics and real-life metrics. This week, a new report from the Washington-based Inrix Inc. shows Houstonians wasted 12 more hours in traffic in 2015 than in years past. OMG! That’s a season of binge watching “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.” It gives me several meaningful episodes of “Game of Thrones” that I will now have to sit in a chair and lose my life to. Luckily, I’ve already binge watched all of “Luther” or I’d be in trouble, perhaps trying to watch on my iPad in the car.

The average Houstonian wasted about 74 hours in his or her car last year sitting in gridlock traffic, the report says. Yikes!  Of course, true.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Just last week, a terrible story erupted about a woman in a three-car wreck in Houston who took off her clothes and danced wildly on an 18-wheeler, stopping traffic for hours. I could be that woman! I have wanted to make a statement many days as I sat in my Nissan Rogue Clarence, going nowhere. Luckily for my now-adult children, I’ve kept my clothes on  . . . so far. They are still worried about their mom being tossed against the hood of Clarence and handcuffed by “The Man” who has stopped me three times in the last six months in sneaky speed traps for breaking the traffic laws.  I’m certain I’m being profiled now that I’m no longer a cute young thing who can talk her way out of a traffic ticket. They think I’ll pay and not complain. So far they are correct.

This week’s findings make Houston the city with the fourth worst traffic in the country.  We fall  behind Los Angeles (No. 1 ), Washington, D.C., (No. 2), and San Francisco (No. 3). It was the only Texas city to make the top 10.

Houston can brag of being the road most traveled in five of the top 100 most congested stretches of roads in the country. The city’s most trafficked area was the portion of Interstate 610 from the Woodway Drive exit to Beechnut Street, near the Galleria. The less than 7-mile strip, which has received low ratings before, should take about six minutes to traverse, according to the report. At peak travel time, the strip takes about 26 minutes. I believe it takes longer.

Almost to work

Almost to work

Other highly trafficked roads in Houston within the top 100 in the country were:

  • S. Highway 59 from Lorraine Street to Texas 288 (been there; done that.)
  • Interstate 45 from Texas 5 Spur to Gulf Bank Road
  • Interstate 610 from Evergreen Street to W. 11th Street
  • S. Highway 290 from Antoine Drive to N. Eldridge Parkway

Now, here’s the even worse news:

The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that it would invest $447 million toward relieving traffic on three of the city’s major highways. TxDOT has even proposed elevating lanes in some of the most congested areas of 610 to help alleviate traffic. However, construction on other roads is still expected to bring about closures and congestion.

When this road work creates even more traffic jams, I will certainly shed my clothes, dance in the grid-locked traffic and make a spectacle of myself. All I can say to the family is “Be prepared; I’m not quitting anytime soon.”

A new season for a favorite neighbor

leave a comment »

Tucker frisking Over the years, I very gradually have gotten to know an elderly dog walker in my neighborhood who I’ve written about before when he lost his old girl, Cookie, to old age. He is such a kindred spirit that I’ve created an entire story around him – without really knowing him much at all.  I think he’s a lot like me or like I will be if I ever retire.

He may be as old as 80 but certainly in his late 70s. A bit of a curmudgeon because he can’t be bothered with two-legged creatures. He keeps his head down, watching his feet as he carefully slugs through the uneven turf of the gully. A little deaf so he doesn’t invite much conversation. A regular gent and loner. A lover of nature and solitude.

I hadn’t seen him for at least a year. Of course, the last year has been pretty busy for me with getting my new fake knees and marrying off my only daughter. But still, I walk Tucker every day. You would think I would have seen him before now. I wouldn’t let my mind wander to him or his three hounds – down to two with the loss of Cookie. I just pretended he was still in the world and we were taking the same path at different times of the day. But occasionally I couldn’t help but think the worst and that I’d never see him again.

Then, last Sunday, I was about halfway on my return trip on the gully. Up ahead, I saw his familiar cadre making their way my way.  His stance was familiar, a bit slumped, and he thudded through the dirt, like always.  And there by his side were three dogs.

“Must not be him,” I thought. Last time I’d seen him, he was down to two dogs and was mourning sweet Cookie as we commiserated over my lost girl, Patsy.

I hurried forward with hope and was rewarded.

“Hey,” I couldn’t contain myself, “How have you been?” And he looked up with these faded gray eyes and recognized me.

He had traded his straw-colored bowler for a head helmet, no longer attempting dapper in the name of safety. Otherwise, he looked healthy and as happy as I’ve ever seen him – meaning not happy at all but weary, faded and tired. He is definitely a disciplined person, though, and resigned to complete his long walk with his friends.

In my experience, he doesn’t bother to look up when people pass by and never speaks first. It’s as if he doesn’t want to trouble anyone else along the journey.

“Good. Good. You?” he said and a twitch made its way to his lips, not a smile but almost.

Tucker, me and Patsy from our old gully days. Dog walks have changed without my high maintenance princess.

Tucker, me and Patsy from our old gully days. Dog walks have changed without my high maintenance princess.

“I’m still down to my one dog,” I said, “But I see you’re back up to three.” And, in fact, he had the happiest teen-aged dog running with his pack. Another German shepherd-looking creature but clearly a mix. This pup knew he’d landed in doggie heaven and gave me a big hound-smile.  With a devoted owner, sweet old Virgil and another hound whose name I continue to miss when we talk, New Pup was frisking around, knowing he’d soon be unleashed when my gentleman friend felt like it was safe to do so.

He said it had taken him awhile to find the right fit for his other dogs and him. He had to be careful with the pup and not let him jerk much or pull him over, thus he’d stuck with wearing the head helmet.

We exchanged dog pats – me giving all three of his attention while he talked and cooed to Tucker, letting Tucker sniff him thoroughly. Tucker is a great judge of character and never once fussed or worried about this man. Typically, he wants to bark at everyone and sniff but he knows kindness immediately. The only time he didn’t bark at the pizza delivery man, I was curious, and the guy told me he had six dogs at home. Ha!! How did Tucker know that from the other side of the door? But he did.

My neighborhood experiences are more like this one instead of the angry man from last week. I love seeing other dog walkers and their creatures. I never visit long because I have my own opinions and often don’t want to hear much from others.

Besides, dog walking is solitary experience in my case – solitary, that is, except for Tucker. It’s when I get inside his head and he gets in mind. And, when that happens, all I care about is the squirrel up ahead and how the grass smells.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

March 13, 2016 at 9:18 am

My bionic life – the sequel

leave a comment »

Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

The countdown has started.

One month from today, Dec. 29, I will do it all again – replace my left knee to go with my right knee replacement. I look back over my notes and posts from the Sept. 15 operation and can’t quite believe I’m going to do this – at all, much less already. But then, I go for a hound walk or easily stroll a few blocks for lunch or a meeting at work in the huge Texas Medical Center, and I know I’m ready. I go upstairs in my two-story home (something I avoided for at least a couple of years) or bend over to pick up something I dropped, and I know I’m ready. I can even get on my knees and look under the bed or couch for a dropped earring or, more likely, a missing remote.

If one knee replacement has made me feel 10 years younger, there’s a strong possibility that the second knee replacement will give me my old self back.

I also know I’m ready because of Thanksgiving. Earlier this week, I started a column about how Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. It was a lot about the cooking, which I’m not good at, and the martyrdom of mothers everywhere on this feast day. Matriarchs (yikes to that word but it’s the one I’m looking for) have a big job on Thanksgiving. We not only put on a good spread but we keep harmony and please everyone. Only then is it a good holiday. And basically – despite how much help we get from others – we are the center of activity for this eating event.

This year, as Thanksgiving Day was winding down for my family, about 11 p.m. or so, I realized I was still standing. I felt good. I had energy. I now like Thanksgiving again. I can’t write a column about it being my least favorite holiday because that’s no longer true.

I now think it was the insidious pain in my knees that made me dread Thanksgiving. Sometimes as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, if I’d been standing up at the kitchen island after work and doing pre-Thanksgiving chopping, I’d start to get exhausted. Before noon on Thursday, I could hardly stand. And, as someone who always has been healthy and active, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Actually, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. I supposed I was overdoing it. And I always overdo it. I totally pushed through without much of a complaint. I blamed Thanksgiving and not my knees.

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

I also now realize a lot more about chronic pain. In my case, it had gotten so gradually worse that it had become part of my routine. I ignored it when I could and lived with it when I couldn’t. It typically wasn’t a huge problem in my day to day. I became a biker and a swimmer instead of a tennis player and a distance walker.

I knew I couldn’t walk around so much on vacations and I’d plan my touring accordingly. The last couple of conferences I went on for work, I rented bicycles to get from my hotel to the conference hall. I didn’t really think that much about it. I must have inherently known that I couldn’t walk the couple of three blocks as easily as I could bike them. It worked out; I had great fun. In Madison, Wisconsin, I biked around the lakes after hours. In San Francisco, I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge. It wasn’t my endurance that was a problem; it was my knees.

The last big touring vacation I took was when my children were young adults. My youngest had just graduated college, and he wanted to visit Washington, D.C. Now, that’s a lot of walking! Our routine was to take a cab to wherever we were going to start our tour – Washington Monument, the specific Smithsonian we would visit, etc. Then, we’d visit as much as possible, eventually walking our way to our nearby hotel. It worked great until the fifth and final day when I was done by about noon. Of course, my daughter and son were not remotely ready. I’m going to have to offer that trip to them again in the next year or so. This time it will be six of us, but we’ll do D.C. up right with new knees.

So, the countdown begins. I know what to expect. I’m ready. I’ve asked to get out of the hospital after two days this time instead of three. Last time, I was still in shock and confused by the amount of pain I was in around the clock. Now, I know that will come to an end after about three weeks. I’d just as soon suffer at home and be on the couch for New Year’s Eve.

My PT team -- coach and support

My PT team — coach and support

John will be my primary PT coach. He and my nurse want me to hit the rehab folks a couple of times and I may, but I can tell you John was the ticket to my good health right now.

And I’ll post. My Facebook friends will see more of me every day and this blog will be my outlet for longer thoughts of a non-commuting kind. I’ve promised no whining this time. I’m sure I’ll shout out at midnight or 3 a.m. on occasion but I’m ready.

Suburban sentiments and sightings

with 2 comments

God's thumbnail

God’s thumbnail

stars

Star-gazing on the gully

It happens about once a week. I might complain about the traffic or muse about something interesting I saw on my commute from the ’burbs to the city. I won’t go for an after-work drink or out to dinner in Houston because “I’ve got to get home.”

Then, I hear myself say it, “It’s a long drive – about an hour each way.” My listener, mostly city residents, will flinch at the thought.

The commute actually is getting longer and longer every week. It wasn’t but about 45 minutes at the most just 10 years ago. Before that, when I commuted at night, I’d give myself 35 minutes to get to University of Houston where I was an adjunct professor.

“Sure, I mind,” I answer to the follow-up flinch.

“But I like where I live and I like where I work.” I actually love my home and my job but I don’t want to rub it in. I couldn’t have this job in the ’burbs and I couldn’t afford a place in the city with so much space, I say instead.

“It’s a choice. My choice,” I say, and I choose it five days a week.

One of the main reasons I love my suburban home is the gully behind our house.

I grew up 90 miles from here so I’m used to waterways — bayous, gullies, rivers, drainage ditches, canals and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico, leading straight to the ocean. In Southeast Texas, we build every type of water containment possible to help with drainage because we live in a hurricane-prone area that is often below sea level and basically has its own rainy season.

We are lucky to have this gully behind our house not just for the extra space but because it keeps us from flooding . . . at least so far. And, it makes for evening and weekend adventures.

Patsy

Patsy always enjoyed a dip in the gully after a hound walk.

Tucker in the grass

Tucker enjoys a back scratch on the gully

We have an abundance of birds including egrets, blue herons and two red-shouldered hawks that visit daily. I saw one of those hawks swoop down in front of my dog walk once, grab a snake from the high grass nearer the water and go soaring away with about a three-foot snake in his mouth. Quite a surprise. I hadn’t seen the hawk much less the snake.

We have dog-sized turtles and cat-sized frogs. I used to walk at sunset intentionally to see two deer who made their way to a nearby bridge every evening. I once saw a coyote, carrying what looked like a bunny, home for supper — make that breakfast, it was early.

Neighbors' garden

Neighbors grow flowers and vegetables on the gully

We have good neighbors along the gully including three families in a row who are gardening back there – some vegetables and some beautiful flowers. The open space also allows some great star gazing. I’m an amateur astronomer and we can take the Celestron to the gully for our own star parties.

Frog - Copy

The gully has a “frog season” and we are visited by hundreds

Mostly, I walk the dogs — now just Tucker — on the gully. I’ve chased every hound I’ve ever had into and around the gully many days. My old Patsy hound, gone now about 18 months, loved to lounge in the gully like a hippopotamus. Tucker is an easy boy. We walk or we bike. He stays beside me and we appreciate and enjoy the extra space.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

November 21, 2015 at 5:56 pm