Tag Archives: Florida

What the Train Conductor Say

I pump the pedals of my bicycle
along the paved trail
where once were train tracks

Sunshine gleaming through trees
and the wind at my neck

I have spent miles and miles here
But today I hear those locomotive engines
and the words from the train conductor
at the helm of his mighty craft:

“Sometimes it get lonely out here
so I seek the solace of my position.
For I am not really alone.

I see the backs of these shops and houses
I see the side that is hidden away from view.
I get a glimpse of the back door, the fruit trees
ready to bear their tropical seeds, mothers and daughters
hanging clothes on the line to dry in the sunshine.

I see men tending to gardens
and boys playing chase.

When they hear the horn in the distance
sometimes they crawl outta their sheds.
Some of them pay no mind.
Some of them wave and smile and go on about their business.

But some of them got no smile on their face.
They want to jump right on the train
and go far far away.
Those are the ones that show me their soul.
And all I can do is leave a billow of coal smoke
to remind them of hope.”

And that is what the train conductor say.

I pedal and pedal
along these old tracks
feeling the cool wind
and the heat of yesterday

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Photo courtesy of me: JeniferBPhotography

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January, at its Best

How many cold, winter nights
have we sat by the window of some smoky place
and contemplated the state of things
or nothing at all
And how such a winter's night
could be so mild
'tis a strange thing but all the same
Fine by me for bitter winds
only add to the shame of man
For no man has not a care in the world
lest he have not a mind or soul
Would that I could take things like
that soulless man
My existence would not have reason
And my mind would think silly thoughts
through the window of murky winter.

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Written when the Tennessee winter was more than I could bear.
The endless days and weeks of cloudy skies, barren tree limbs, and freezing temperatures took its toll.

It robbed the best of me, leaving a fallen, desperate shell.
Now my Floridian January is a celebration.

The cool winds keep the warmth from stagnating.
And I am smiling as the vivid colors of a blue sky backdrop promise me sunshine and breezes
and greenery.

And birds gracefully gliding in their sunny winter dance.

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Just a Shadow?

shadow

This morning on my chilly bike ride I saw her.  Again.  She is usually near the park, but today she was a bit farther north, just before the tunnel.

On happy days I ignore her dark, dead eyes then roll my own bright blues after I pass her.  She never says hello, never a word.  I don’t know how it is humanly possible for someone to walk that slow and not fall.  Among the bikers and joggers and roller bladers and parents pushing strollers there she moves at a snail’s pace.  Except a snail has a purpose behind its travel.  I gave up smiling and saying good morning to her long ago.  And those hats!  A different one every day.  Neither too fancy nor too casual, yet totally impractical to moving about on the trail.

And her clothing.  It’s as if she’s dressed for a day at an open market someplace I’ve never been but only seen on TV.  Long, flowy skirts and tunics.  Even when it is sweltering outside (which it is here half the year) her entire average-sized body is fully covered.

But it’s not just her outward appearance that shakes me.  It’s what I feel when I see her.

I know when she is up ahead on the trail.  Not just because of the cadence of her mechanical walking, but because of the energy.  Whatever I am feeling I know she senses.  On my happy days I try to send her light or at least surround myself with irradiation so she may become momentarily blinded.  But when I pass her with this glow she does not falter.  glow

On my sad days (which thank god are not often anymore) I also avert my eyes to hers.  But I try not to direct this melancholy towards her.  Instead I feel she knows this.  She gives no solace yet she takes no energy.

But this morning she was not walking.  I saw up ahead a figure standing beside the tunnel, looking out onto the horizon.  I thought to myself what a beautiful photograph that would be.  The figure posed better than you could tell a model to pose while looking outward.  A shadow before it stretching out toward the early morning sun.  When I came closer I saw that it was her.  And like usual when I see her there is no one else around.

And like usual she did not look at me, did not speak a word, did not even seem to be breathing.

I biked past and just a tad more north where I always turn around and grab my water bottle from its nest underneath my ripped, cushioned seat.  When I got back to the tunnel she was gone.  I didn’t even see her anywhere else on the trail as I made my way back towards home, cold sweat on my forehead I had to wipe off on my little sissy Florida gloves.  tunnel

I have always wondered if she is a ghost.  I could ask one of my occasional biking companions about her but she is never there when I have company.  And to be honest I don’t really want to know.  She is my mirror.  Although unsettling, she reminds me to keep peddling and singing and sweating no matter what dark eyes try to pierce inside.

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El Commando

My mother always wore muumuus to bed.  On Saturdays and holidays she might wear them all day.

The bird of paradise on my lanai-- inspirational flower for thousands of muumuu designs

The bird of paradise on my lanai– inspirational flower for hundreds of muumuu designs.

Although quite unfashionable, they looked comfy as hell.  Some were bright like the bird of paradise which blooms in the late summer in my tropical backyard patio.  Some were more subdued—perhaps a pale blue with lace around the collar.  They were varying lengths but Mom preferred the gowns that graced her firm, meaty calves.  In my beloved early 80’s childhood sitcom, Three’s Company, Miss Roper would wear those beacons of comfortable gaudiness like she was Lana Turner, pairing each of them with a classy, plastic bead necklace.  She was no Hollywood siren, but she definitely had something right.

Flash forward to the late 90’s.  I’m working at a mall photo store with this witch Dani who had it out for me ever since she learned I was ten years younger than her.  As I bend over to dust some shelves she starts cackling and pointing at me.  “Your panty line is showing and it looks ridiculous!”  Appalled I scamper to the restroom and look at my backside in the mirror.  The edges of my size 12 panties are visible underneath my geometric-style polyester dress.  It does kind of look ridiculous and enhances my already ample rump.

There are occasions which warrant the donning of undergarments.

There ARE occasions which warrant the donning of undergarments. What’s your style?

The next day I buy some of those new-fangled thongs everyone’s talking about.  Those crotch-scrapers definitely cut down on the panty line factor, but after a month or so I didn’t know which was worse—being embarrassed or in constant pain.  So I decided to, as they described it in my beloved college sitcom, Seinfeld, go el Commando.

See the thing about going commando (sans underwear) is that unless you happen to be wearing a dress and walk over an underground fan, it’s really your little secret.  That is, unless you start spilling it to your friends because you can’t believe how freeing it is and why the heck didn’t you do this sooner.  Why, on Golden Girls, my favorite sitcom of all time, Blanche is well known by her mates that she prefers that liberating feeling.

So this all goes back to the fact that I grew up with a mother who enjoyed being informally relaxed, at least apparel-wise.  Thank goodness slips and pantyhose are not a part of our daily modern wardrobe now.  Underwear is enough to deal with.

Gorgeously uncomfortable

Gorgeously uncomfortable

Period pieces, movies set in the 1700’s—I love them.  The décor, the thick, wood furniture, the renaissance paintings, the wigs, hats, ornate shoes and dresses—they are a feast to the eyes.  But underneath the ever-mysterious centuries-ago garments are the corsets.  My wedding dress was a floor-grazing long, cream-colored silk skirt and a corset with about a thousand laces in the back.  It was beautiful but after wearing the top half all day (my hairstylist had me wear it in the morning while having my hair done), by the time I walked to the end of the aisle that evening I thought I might pass out.  At the end of the festivities when my husband and I were back at the hotel for our first night of bridled passion, the very act of him trying to untie me out of that thing left us both exhausted and describing the awesome sex we would have once we got to the Bahamas and into our island clothes.

Yeah.

Yeah.

In fact, one of the main reasons I vied to move to Florida after less than a year of marriage was so I could wear flip flops every day of the year.  Once again, comfort.  And in our Florida department store Bealls, there was until a year or so ago, an actual muumuu section.  The first time I saw it I laughed and took a photo with my phone.  I texted my brother a caption underneath the photo that read, “My form of dress in 20 years”.

Some women wear stilettos, some don corsets.  Some prefer skin-tight jeans; others prance around in string-bikinis.  I’m not at the muumuu phase yet, but I do have a worn-in polka-dotted cotton dress that I call my “muumuu for my forties”.  And unless a gust of wind blows heavy at my hemline, I have a not-so-secret secret that keeps me in total comfort abandonment—all above a pair of luxurious $3 flip flops.

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Filed under Yep I'm Becoming My Mother

Left-hand Turns and other Driving Displeasures

Our family car in the mid '80's. Why am I the only one NOT wearing flip flops?

Our family car in the mid ’80’s. Why am I the only one NOT wearing flip flops?

From the backseat of our car the other day my nine-year-old son loudly stated, “You’re becoming your mother.”  I knew exactly what he was talking about.  We were trying to make a left-hand turn into non-stop traffic as a line of cars behind us became increasingly impatient.  “I hate these left-hand turns!” I cried out before my son made his unquestionable statement.  These were the words I heard repeatedly from my mother in the 80’s and 90’s, although she said it with a bit more exasperation and defeat.  “Oh I HATE these left-hand tuuurns! I’m NEVER gonna get outta heeeeere!” It used to annoy the crap out of me because she was so dramatic and aggravated about it.  But now that I’m older and an experienced driver, I completely understand.

Mom's preferred place in the car-- the passenger's seat.

Mom’s preferred place in the car– the passenger’s seat.

My brother and I would make fun of her, and to this day it is an ongoing joke.  We mimic that sentence that is still lingering somewhere over the streets of Antioch, Tennessee.  Even she laughs about it now.  It’s become one of those family inside-jokes that’s still alive with the next generation.  So when my son hears me say those exact words in a real-life situation, well he is smart enough to know it resembles the frustrated expression of Grandma.

Another thing that annoyed my mom on the road was the incompetence of drivers from a certain county.  Anytime a driver did something idiotic, like pull in front of us, or slam on brakes, or stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason, my mom got a good look at the license plate.  And lo and behold, they were always from the same county.  “Rutherford County, I knew it!” She screamed in annoyed confidence.  They did seem to be the worst drivers on the street.  That was also the county were my mom was born and raised.

The only "vehicle" my Granny drives. Notice my parent's Lucerne in the background.

The only “vehicle” my granny drives. Notice my parent’s Lucerne in the background.

I don’t notice any particular county in The Tampa Bay area of Florida (where I reside now) that fosters incompetent drivers, although if you see a Toyota Camry or Buick Lucerne swerving about, pulling out into oncoming traffic, or going 10 miles an hour, you can bet the driver is at least 75 years old. And when this does happen you will hear me say, “Great-grandma Myrtle—I knew it!”

My grandma (born, raised, and still living in Rutherford County) has never driven a day in her life.  My mom won’t drive on interstates.  I’ve taken 600 mile road trips by myself on several occasions.  So with each generation comes more driving confidence.  But when I start getting cocky my mom always reminds me of the time I was just learning to drive and nearly crashed our minivan into a median.

My first car. Zero accidents. One break down. Two speeding tickets.

My first car. Zero accidents. One break down. Two speeding tickets.

I yelled through hormonal teenage tears, “I’m never driving again!”  My mom sternly looked me in the eyes and said, “Yes you will, Jenifer!  You have to.”  In her own shaky driving self-confidence she knew her daughter could not be scared like her or her own mother.  And I’m glad she said that to me that day.  Because I might not have had the displeasure of hating left-hand turns just like her.

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