Monthly Archives: September 2013

My Tiara

I’ve just finished a deep clean of my office. I was getting a stuffy nose sitting at my desk so decided to take everything off the desk and wipe it down well, dust all monitors and other desk items and return them to the desk. Then I thought I should take everything out of my closet and vacuum the rug in there and sweep under all other furniture in the office. I vowed to not put anything back in my closet that I didn’t need. That was about 15 days ago and I just finished about an hour ago. I have two garbage bags full of trash, two bags of stuff that belongs in other parts of the house that found its way to my attic and an overflowing moving box of items to donate. One of the items in that box is a tiara.

You see, I don’t need a tiara. and I’ve been meaning to blog about this tiara so I could dispose of it because it is really hard to store a tiara and even harder to display a tiara.

Here’s the story of the tiara.

Twelve years ago around this time I was still trying to emotionally and intellectually process the attacks of September 11. Then the anthrax attacks started happening. We were told to be wary of our mail — not knowing who was going to be targeted next.

One day at work I was given a package. It was a small, light cube-shaped brown package and had been mailed through the US Postal system. It had no return address. I was afraid to open it. Normally I tear into packages, but not this one. I let it sit on my desk in my cubical. Finally our administrative assistant asked what was in the package and I told her I had not opened it yet. She said I should and that I had no reason to think it was anthrax or anything else dangerous. So I brought it to her desk and slowly opened it.

What I found inside was nothing I would ever have guessed — t was a silver and (fake) gemstone tiara on which the word DIVA was spelled out in metal and gems.

The note inside explained it all. Joanne, my one-time friend, and I had met for lunch one day in late summer. We discussed my work and she said I was a 508 Guru. I said, not a Guru, a Diva. So when she saw the Diva tiara at a store she wanted to buy it for me to wear when I did my Section 508 work. She also wanted me to know she was thinking of me, living close to some of the 9-11 attacks.

It was a thoughtful gift and it was a turning point in how I felt about the September 11 events. For some reason I felt that having such a sparkly tiara, I was somehow safe. Nothing bad would happen to me. I kept it at work and occasionally wore it when I did 508 work — mostly when someone else was looking.

Damn, now I want to take it out of the give-away box…

An Unexpected Journey: Part 3 Sheridan, WY to Missoula MT

I awoke early — around 5:30 and did some work before going down to the fake riverside restaurant for breakfast. I’d checked the route and saw that we had an easy day — only 6 hours drive and no planned stops. I did want to stop in Bozeman, having been there 26 years ago for a wedding in nearby Red Lodge.

I called Dean while waiting for my breakfast, then called my mom after eating. When I returned to the room, Clare was awake and we left soon after.

When we got to the car the bees were still there — fewer, but definitely still there. Some seemed to be moving out to other cars. Clare was worried that the bees were the cause of her allergies — they carried pollen into the engine area and when we had the heat or air conditioning on the pollen entered the car. Although I was the first to suggest it, I realized later that was not what was going on. And these guys were not even really bees — more like yellow-jackets.

The drive across Eastern Montana was uneventful. Clare drove first. It is quite flat and almost desert-like, although we did eventually see mountains in the distance. Actually we’d see mountains in the distance and a little while later I’d try to find the mountains again — thinking they must be behind us. It wasn’t until much later when I checked the altitude that I realized we were in the mountains.

We decided to stop for lunch in Bozeman for a couple of reasons. 1) we were hungry 2) I’d been there before. We searched for a nice local diner, but came up empty so turned around and ate at a place near the University with new construction and that “old town” or “Disneyland Main Street” sort of feel — you probably have one in your town. The first place we tried was closed, so we ate at a place that offered vegetarian options.

As we left Bozeman we experienced another violent rainstorm — see the video after the break.

I’d never been west of Bozeman in Montana, so the rest of the journey through Montana was new to me. It is lovely country. We tried listening to “A River Runs Through It” as we drove to Missoula, but it didn’t keep our interest — although now, having been in Missoula — I want to read/listen to/re-watch it.

We rolled into Missoula when there was plenty of daylight left. Clare was trying to arrange a meet-up with friends of a friend. We found the river and thought it beautiful. For lodging, we tried to get a room at a B&B on the river, but no one answered the door, even though the sign said it had a vacancy. I called a couple of hotels in the area and found one with rooms which was a block and a half from where we were parked.

The Doubletree Hotel in Missoula is right on the river. We were offered a room with a view of the river for a substantial amount more than the room without a view, but having seen the river, I chose the room with a view. Clare’d finally talked to the friend of a friend and made plans to meet him later that evening. We admired the river from our balcony, but wanted to get closer, so we went outside and tried to find river access. At first we didn’t think it was possible, but a hotel employee showed us how to get to the river by going around the hotel near the lobby.

As we passed the lobby Clare remarked on the black lab that was tied up to a bench by the lobby door. She said it was there when I was checking in. Now it was howling mournfully.

We spent the last of the daylight on the riverbank. Clare, ever her father’s daughter, took off her shoes and waded into the river before we headed back to our room. On the way back to the room, Clare noticed a man of about 65 – 70 sitting next to the dog and remarked that the dog found its owner. The man looked up and Clare called out, “Is that your dog?”. He replied, “Angel?” Clare called back, “Angel? That’s her name?” He stood up and held out his hand and Clare walked over to him and shook it. He replied that he was pleased to meet her. She asked again if the dog was his and he said that it wasn’t. I realized this was a case of mistaken identity and told him that Clare was not Angel. He didn’t hear me or ignored me. He then said something to Clare about buying her cowboy boots (she was still barefooted) and followed us into the lobby. When we passed the gift store he stopped and said, “Oh it’s closed.” We headed towards our room and he asked where we were going. I said, “she’s not who you think she is,” before we turned again to go. He said again, “Where you goin'”? I shouted, “She is not Angel! She is not who you are looking for.” He finally understood, and mumbled that he had the wrong person.

We returned to our room feeling alternately embarrassed and amused. We figured he’d either hired a prostitute named Angel, met someone online named Angel or had a long-lost granddaughter named Angel whom he’d never met. We figured that the first guess was probably right — that he was waiting for a prostitute named Angel and the mix-up with the dog and Clare’s friendliness and his state of inebriation made him think Clare was the Angel for whom he was waiting. The only question I had was who thought I was. Angel’s pimp?

About a half hour later Clare and I left the room to get a bite to eat at the bar and as we rounded the corner to the elevator we saw the same man, this time accompanied by two young women, one had pink hair and one had blue hair. We heard him say “I hope there is time for music.”

For a brief moment, everyone froze. Clare said the young women looked at her. I don’t know who looked at whom because I immediately looked at the ground. Once out of earshot we broke out in laughter. It looked like he found his Angel. And Angel’s friend. Now I knew who he thought I was.

After thinking about it, it was really sad that these two young women — probably even younger than Clare — had to make money by entertaining this man. If indeed that was the situation. We may have been wrong in our conclusions — but probably not.

Clare went out with the friend of a friend later that night and had a great time. She saw a band called Baby & Bukowski and said the show was the best live performance she’d ever seen. Their music is good — click the link and check them out yourself.

Photos and video on page 2.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 2 Sioux Falls, SD to Sheridan, WY

The trip

Our Holiday Inn Express was nothing to write home about — in fact, I don’t even remember what it looked like. It was good just to have a place to sleep after the long drive and an hour or so of working.

We knew we had a long trip ahead of us with a couple of stops on the way. Mount Rushmore was a must — Clare needed to prove to her friends that it really existed. My cousin suggested I stop by Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. Both intrigued me, but it was the Corn Palace I preferred.

When we got to the car, parked in the sun in front of the hotel, Clare noticed a number of bees flying around the hood. She remarked on it, but we thought nothing of it as we headed westward.

I mentioned to Clare that I wanted to stop at the Corn Palace, having seen it in the  documentary King Corn, and when she saw it in a tourist pamphlet she agreed it might be fun. Mitchell, the town that hosts “THE WORLD’S ONLY CORN PALACE!” is a small town, just off Interstate 90. It didn’t take us too long to find it once we exited the highway. We agreed that we were not going in, we just wanted to take a few photos, so we parked a few blocks away and walked to the Corn Palace. (which is made out of corn in case you wondered).

After the Corn Palace we decided to give Wall Drug a miss, despite the tempting signage. Sorry Beth…

As we neared Mount Rushmore, the scenery changed from fields of corn to something that looked like it could be the filming location for a movie about another planet. We had entered the Badlands.

Badlands in the distance

Our next stop was to be Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was not a place I had on my bucket list, but since it was on the way and Clare was determined to prove to Nick and Bennett that it actually exists, we took the 2 hour detour to visit the four presidents.

Mount Rushmore is near a tiny town (whose name I cannot figure out) that looks nearly as kitschy as Wisconsin Dells. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a bar that employed people from everywhere except the US.  Our waiter was from Turkey — something he told us upfront. For some reason — maybe he was tired of being asked where he was from.

When we returned to the car Clare noticed the bees again. This time there were many more than back at the hotel. We looked closely and they seemed to be entering and exiting the car through the grill. One landed on a dead bug and carried away a set of wings. We opened the hood and the bees came and went. We thought it was amusing.

Mount Rushmore was sort of interesting. Lots of motorcyclists were there. Lots of people were taking photos. But in the end, it is only a large rock with the faces of four presidents.

When we returned to the car, the bees were still there.

After the two hour detour, we got back on Interstate 90 and drove to Wyoming where we’d already booked a hotel room.

I posted on Facebook that I’d hoped to see the Devil’s Tower (the rock formation that was prominently featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but when Clare and I stopped at a rest area/tourist information place we were told that we could not see it from Interstate 90 and it might be a 50 mile drive. Oh well, I thought, maybe someday…

After entering Wyoming I asked Clare if she would take over driving — we were about an hour away from Sheridan. She said okay and I pulled into a parking area. As we switched seats I happened to look out over the field to the right of the highway and saw the Devil’s Tower in the distance. It was pretty far away, but unmistakable. I think I also saw a Western Tanager fly past.

If you have ever been out West, you know that the sky seems bigger there. Growing up in Illinois, I remember being able to look out across the cornfields and see rain miles away — it always looked like a gray sheet of paper coming out of the cloud. Further west, were we were, the rain in the distance looks different — more like wisps of mist hanging from the clouds to the earth. We wondered what they were and asked our Turkish waiter, but he didn’t seem to understand the question and said something about all the rain they got there. Later on our trip drove through one and found out the mist was a rainstorm.

Also, if you have been out West recently, you know that the speed limit is 75 mph on the Interstate. When I drove, I probably drove a little more than 75. Clare drove even faster. However, there are few cars on the road out there. When darkness fell we had two scary incidents. A violent thunderstorm took place for a few minutes and a doe strolled out in front of us (not at the same time, thank goodness). Clare is an excellent driver and navigated the tumultuous rain very well. When the deer walked directly in front of our car Clare slowed down and swerved around her.

Our hotel in Sheridan was also a convention center. It had a strange bit of water over which a bridge separated the lounge area from the restaurant area.

A river runs through it

We checked out the bar and then went to bed. We were halfway through with our journey.