Monday, November 26, 2012

Nate of Las Vegas Part III

“Sir, Mr. Roger sir…, may I ask, before we turn for home…, what’s with these rules of non-visitation…. It really seems unethical….

Nate continued with eloquence,

“With all the news around town, around the world really, of the new construction…, surely you allow curious visitors get a taste of the place…. What’s the meaning of sharing the news when there is no reciprocity?   Surely, with your rank here, Roger, you do have the power to make and enforce decisions like this…, don’t you?”

Roger’s posture changed immediately.  He puffed up, becoming twice as large.   Nate hit his spot--power.  Roger had taken a hit.  His eyes opened wide.  Nate remained calm, and continued….

“I would think a man entrusted to guard this entire property would have the power to choose who could and could not visit the school.”

Roger stoutly defended.

“Listen…, Saturdays are our visiting days, and that is the time when guided tours are available.” 

Roger looked like he was going to shake a fist at us.

Nate leaned quickly into me, grinning, he knew something I didn’t.  I was enthralled and betwixt.  Captive in company with someone who argued persistently about something he didn’t really care about, just to engage.  I felt like I was being shown something behind the scenes of the human drama through Nate.  And, I wasn’t even sure if Nate’s story about the construction was true.   Then I wondered how Nate would have even known about the construction or the building.  Seeing as though he thought it was a castle a few minutes ago....  Or was he playing me too?  Maybe he knew I’d be a person willing to go see a castle, but less willing to go see a school. 

I followed Nate’s eyes.   He looked back to Roger and locked with his gaze, direct.  He purposely hung in the silence for a few extra moments before saying,

“Well, great, today is Saturday, so…, let’s go”

Roger’s irritation was beginning to break through.  I was certain he was either going to get angry and swing at us, or break down.  It also crossed my mind that he might call back-up security to escort us away.

“Look,” he said through clenched teeth, “the students are on break, and so are the guides, so there are no tours today…. I - am – the - only - one - here.”

There was a very long pause and no one moved.  I felt like we were playing chess.   I felt myself beginning to lose patience, as the three of us exchanged stares in the thick silence.  The center of my forehead was getting hot and I started to tap my foot.

“Do you two understand me?”

Roger spoke solid.

“I - am – the – only – one - here.”

I was getting ready to speak, when Nate cut in.

“Well, certainly then the school entrusts you with the power to allow two curious and distant travelers….”

I felt my head spin and my heart leap into my throat as a laugh.    Surprised at this expression, I tried to contain this by coughing and covering my mouth.   But my laugh spilled around the edges.  None of us could keep gesturing anymore.  Nate didn’t even finish his sentence before the three of us began to laugh in unison.  No one knew who was laughing at what or why.

 “Alright you two hop on, for the tour!”

Roger’s angry face turned to a smile and he whisked his arms toward the jeep.

I was amazed.  The vanishing of the power play caused me to step back before forward.  Nate swung open the door and offered me the front seat, and jumped in the back.  Roger went up front and started the jeep.

“So where are you two from?”

I took a breath in to tell the truth…, and Nate chimed in,


Roger either didn’t care, or believed us, and drove through the security gate up the hill towards the main entrance.   I looked back at Nate from the mirror on the window visor.  He was smiling into the sky with his head bobbing back and forth.  He floated there in the mirror like every day of his life was like this, a wandering mystery of chance happenings all folded into laughter.  I was unsure right then if he was really a person at all.  Maybe he was a figment of my imagination, or maybe the sun was getting to me.  I did only have a few hours of sleep; I am at a high desert altitude.  This is the Land of Enchantment, after all. I looked back through the mirror until he recognized I was staring at him and he puffed his cheeks out and waved.  I smiled back.

Roger parked the jeep in the turnaround in front of the main entrance and we jumped out.  He led us up the marble stairs, unlocked the cavernous doors and escorted us into the main lobby.   The interior was massive, cathedral ceilings with glass chandeliers, ornate bric-a-brac on ever surface.  Roger closed the door behind us and pointed to the dining hall.  He walked in front of us and opened the dining hall doors.  We stepped through into another room twice as large, with blown class chandeliers and a black and white checkered floor.  The dining hall was filled with fine sturdy medieval-looking tables.  Roger walked us around the room, chatting with Nate the entire time.  He led us out of the dining hall, across the main entrance and into the “historical collection room,” a place with floor-to-ceiling books and portraits of important men.

I tuned in and out to Roger and Nate’s specific chatter, I only took note of the quality of their interaction.  Nate decided to milk Roger for all he was worth, pelting him with question after question about specific historical details of the construction of the building, and Roger was delighted.  It was as if he’d been waiting for someone to ask him so many questions about this place, which he knew everything about.  They became very close, very fast.  It was starting to feel as if I was watching old friends chatting, walking arm in arm, room to room.  I lingered behind them for a while, and then scooted out an open door on the balcony to get some space.   I stared for long time into the desert.   I stood, taking slow breaths of dry pinion and heat.  What was I doing here?  How did I get here?

I thought about going with the flow, and accepting the gifts of the universe.  I looked into the mountains and asked what I was supposed to understand from this.

I heard the balcony door close with a creak.  Nate came up behind me, and put a hand on my shoulder.  I turned around to face him and squinted. He smiled and turned away from me to Roger,

“And my wife here …. she’s one who likes to linger in beauty.”

Nate turned from Roger to face me again, still smiling,

“Isn’t that right dear?”

End Part III
Allison Distler

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Route 6

For most of my childhood Thanksgiving was a singular memory: a road trip from my home in Northeastern Ohio to my grandmother’s home in the Allegheny mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania.  The drive took us 8 long hours as we followed a two lane state highway that meandered in and around the mountains of the region, and the tiny towns that dotted the hillsides and valleys of Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

I curled up with my comic books and pillows in the back seat and my father drove over mostly dry roads up steep mountains, around hairpin turns, and through small towns. We did hit a snow storm now and then, and I watched as my parents silently worried as they hit icy mountain roads and went across bridges in the rain and sleet and snow of the nascent winter driving season. 

I came to know and love the towns along that road: Coudersport, Wellsboro, Towanda, Wyalusing, Wysox.  Each had its own quaint charm: a river, a town square, a plaque honoring a civil war hero, store front diners and craft stores, an entire store dedicated to selling Christmas decorations.  Each town, always decked out for the coming holidays with wreathes and garland, seemed like they had a special welcome for us as we had to slow the car to accommodate the sudden drop to a 35 mile an hour speed limit.

We rarely stopped except to get gas.  Delicious food, including my grandmother’s special recipe sugar cookies, were waiting at the end of the line, no need for anything until we got there. Of course we were all impatient too.  I am sure I said, “how much longer till we get there?” the requisite 100 times, after every stop light and lane change.

Somewhere in my young adulthood when trips to Grandmother’s house changed to trips to my Aunt’s (Grandma died in 1984), my parents began taking the new interstate that opened up just north of Route 6.  It shaved two hours off their driving time.  It was then I realized that the long slow meandering drive through the small towns of Pennsylvania was probably the best part about our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage.  Oh, I loved seeing my family and eating all that great food, that was always important, but the getting there by that slow beautiful drive became a touchstone for me.

Thanksgiving reminds me of those times in my parent’s car, watching the towns go by, wondering what it was like to live in Laceyville, Pennsylvania next to the Susquehanna river.  I can still hear the sound of the car as it slowed to turn the corner. 

Of course, all the drives we take now are fast and efficient. There is no other way to get where we go, and of course I miss the slow road: the anticipation of what waited at the end, the intimacy of small towns even for strangers passing through, and the sites and sounds of other places and times.    I have promised myself that the next time I take route 6, I am definitely stopping to shop at the Christmas store and reading that Civil War marker, and maybe even stopping for pie at some town diner. I really hope it is all still there waiting for me.

Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



For my Daughter on Her 22nd Birthday

I stood on a bridge near Durham.  You, inside me, growing, and I so large, so hot, bent forward, elbows resting on cool stone.  In the middle of that span I realized my life would soon change. Looking down on the trickling Eno River, late summer of my 30th year, I was soothed.  And the water knew. 

I imagined every river journey that had brought me there—every boundary water paddle, every float down the Connecticut, every ride along the banks of the Ohio, with fiddle tunes playing and some sense of destiny humming underneath all those waters.

We followed the Kanawah North to where you were raised on mountain music, and suburban slang, took you to the woods often and once, you might have been 7, on a bridge beside a waterfall, you ran ahead, then stopped short, tempted to dash beyond to where we couldn’t see you, but you turned, at some half-way point, suspended between everything in front of you, and everything you could not yet leave behind. 

Today, I think of you, 22, on the bridge you walk from there…to here…to there.  And wonder what hums underneath your passage this fine morning.  I was your bridge once, from one world to the next, but you’ve been crossing your own for as long as I can remember.  In tiny red shoes.  Stilettos, and suede.  Boots for the journey and for standing still.

Listen to the waters running beneath you my child.  Follow the flow that carries you.  Be grateful for your strong legs, your arms, your sense of direction. Look back  at the love that served you, and bridge it forward.

Little Red Shoes   Jess Allen
Poem by Beth Lodge-Rigal   11/6/12


Sunday, November 4, 2012

How do we not go crazy....

How do we not go crazy,
we who have found ourselves compelled
to live with the circle, the ellipsis, the word
not yet written. 
The Reverse Side   by Stephen Dunn

How Do We Not Go Crazy?

How do we not go crazy from the stories spinning in our heads?  How do we not get freaked out by the characters who tap on our shoulders in the middle of the night demanding that their stories be told? “Put it down on paper now. I don’t care if it is 2:00 in the morning.”

How do we not go crazy from trying to tease out that thread that carries us through the story? The thread that makes it all make sense.  How do we not go crazy when that thread gets twisted around itself and we cannot figure out how to untangle it?

How do we not go crazy from trying to fill in the gaps between what we know, what we were told happened and what we think happened?

How do we not go crazy from the circular thinking caused by trying to figure out where does my story begin and end. Where do we start? What happened in the middle? The middle seems to be the hardest part. Do we even want it to end? Will we write about it forever?

How do we not go crazy from trying to figure out when a story is finished? When do we leave it alone? How long do we leave it sit with itself before we come back to take another peek at it?

How do we not go crazy from always being so observant, from noticing all the details? Even in the middle of a family drama, we are thinking that this will be a great story.  Our writing brains never seem to turn off, even in dreams.  Our minds fill with words waiting to be assembled into stories, stories that need be told.

How do we not go crazy from not having the time to figure all of this out?

Rebekah for the Poplar Grove Muse