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My maternal grandfather’s parents settled in Indian Territory, near where Ardmore is now located. It’s hard to find many details, but I know they lived on a farm where my mother was born. My maternal grandmother’s parents lived on a farm closer to Durant, where they must have moved from near Bonham, Texas, where my grandmother was born. I keep finding little details to put this story together.

My grandfather’s parents married in 1876, when my great-grandfather, E.Z. (Ephraim Z.) West married Hattie Artie Mills. My grandfather was born in 1876 in Denton County, Texas. E. Z. and Hattie had two more sons who died young, George at age 8 and John at age 20. E. Z. opened one, possibly two or more, wagon yards, including the West Wagon Yard, in Ardmore and built a house on the property of the wagon yard. The house was on the corner of 1st St SW and E St SW, across from Central Park. My grandfather worked with his father in the wagon yard (kind of an early motel for people coming to town by wagon) until the wagon days were waning due to automobiles and then he went to work for the telephone company, which must have been a pretty new industry.

I’ve seen photos of my grandfather, Ben, mostly at play with other young people or with his lodge. He looks playful and fun and at ease with everyone. In 1915, at the age of 38, he found my 18 year old grandmother, Artie, married her and brought her home. They soon had three children, two boys and a girl, my mother. My grandmother didn’t speak of my grandfather much, but I always think of her telling me how he would get up and start the fire and then wrap her up in a blanket and bring her downstairs. That may be all I need to know about him.

At some point, my grandfather became ill with Bright’s Disease, a kidney disease that could probably easily be cured today. I don’t know how long this lasted, but I know he purchased a small neighborhood grocery store for my grandmother to run after he was gone. Neighborhood groceries were still around when I was a child and they were small, about one room, and located in neighborhoods. I guess they were the first convenience stories. My grandfather died in 1927, leaving his young widow with three children. My great-grandfather had died in 1920, so my great-grandmother was also a widow with only her daughter-in-law and her three grandchildren left. I have a much earlier photo of her, but this is how my mother knew her.Scan 2At some time, between 1930 and 1940 (according to census records), my grandmother moved her family to the house I always associate with her. My great-grandmother owned property around town and made sure that each of her grandchildren owned a house. My mother told me they had dignity during the Depression because they owned their home, even when the gas was turned off. My mother also spent a lot of time with her grandmother and could describe her, her clothing and everything in her house and yard in detail. My great-grandmother died in 1940 so I never got to meet her.

I’ve written about my grandmother before. Her name was Artie but she was so prissy as a child that her brothers nick-named her Dude. She was Mommie Dude to me. She was the cutest thing, always curious, always ready for adventure. With only about a ninth grade education and great strength, she faced the world that was given her. My mother told me once that she thought she never remarried because she was afraid another man might hurt her children. Here she is at the corner of the house in about 1940.Artie West - June 5, 1942My mother left home after high school and sent money home to help her mother for the rest of her life. Mommy went to business school, returning during World War II to work at Ardmore Air Base, where my grandmother worked packing parachutes. My father was a Squadron Commander, a Lt. Colonel, assigned to Ardmore after he had completed his 50 missions, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They were a glamorous couple when they married and moved to his home in Oklahoma City, where he was in business with his father, brother and brother-in-law.

I was a tiny baby, born at the end of 1945. I was in the hospital for several weeks until I reached 5 pounds. My mother had never been around babies, so she wasn’t surprised when Mommie Dude came to help and ended up taking me home with her. That was the beginning of the bond between us as I was her first grandchild. Until I was married, I spent time in Ardmore with my grandmother and my aunt and uncle, who lived in the house my great-grandparents had lived in until they sold it and moved to a new suburb. My memories of that home are vague, but I remember being in it. When I see photos with a glimpse of the house behind me, I realize how old it was.Scan 1By the time I was 2 1/2, my family had moved to Tulsa and lived in a nice house with modern appliances (well, modern for 1948). We were comfortable, my parents each had a car, and my mother had help with my baby brother and later my sister. It was a different life from my grandmother’s, but I didn’t really think too much about it. I realize now how much I learned from my visits with her.

At some point, my grandmother gave up the neighborhood store. By the time I can remember, she rented out rooms in her house and rooms in another, bigger, two story house across the street from her mother-in-law’s old home. The house I knew had a front porch that I could hardly wait to see. Here is my mother in  about 1940 in front of the house.Scan 63I spent hours alone, with my brother and sister, or with my cousin, swinging on that porch swing, playing on those stairs, catching horned toads in the yard. In the back yard was a pear tree where we ate the juicy fruit right off the branches. She even had chickens for a short time. Her garage was another source of amazement, where we could explore the boxes and trunks. My grandmother also had a wringer washer and a clothesline in the back yard. We had a clothesline at home, but the fun of running clothes through that wringer out in the yard never ended for this kid from the big city. We walked down the street to the ice house for chips of ice in the summer, visited a neighborhood store nearby with the nickels my grandmother gave us, or walked downtown to see the big stores or visit my uncle at First National Bank where he was a clerk and later Vice-President until his health made him retire early.

There was a living room, a bedroom behind it, then the kitchen and a sleeping porch. There was a door with a screen door in the kitchen that led to the hall and the bathroom at the end. I remember one bulb which made the hallway a little dark and scary when I had to walk down there alone. The other side of the hall had rooms, also with screen doors. I can’t remember if there were three or four rooms. These were the rooms that my grandmother rented to older men. I finally got curious enough to ask my mother who the men were way too many years later. She told me they were pensioners. I asked what that meant and she said they were veterans, living on a government pension. There was a porch on the side of the house where they could sit outside. Their rooms were tiny with a bed, chest of drawers and a table, as I remember. I think this is the side porch behind my mother.Scan 58

There was another room at the front of the house that you entered either through the living room or from the hall. My grandmother rented this to a lady for a few years and then reclaimed it for another bedroom. I think it may have been my mother’s room when she lived there. Because of all these people in the house, we weren’t allowed to use more than a few inches of water when we took a bath. At night, my grandmother kept a chamber pot, actually an enamel bowl, under her bed for us to use rather than walking down the hall. I never got used to that.

In the kitchen, my grandmother had the phone on the wall that was used by everyone in the house. It was a party line and I loved to quietly pick it up and listen to the local ladies’ conversations. For all I know, they knew I was listening, but they continued talking anyway. At some point, my grandmother got a black phone like we had at home, which wasn’t nearly as interesting. On the window sill, she had various items, including this little pitcher, which once held syrup, and this small enamel coffee pot. They have been on my kitchen window sill or window shelves as a sweet reminder of those days. I also have my great-grandmother’s coffee grinder.IMG_4267I don’t remember what else my grandmother cooked in that kitchen, but I know she made Kool-Aid and poured it into ice trays before we arrived. We called them squares and we could take a couple of the frozen treats in a bowl to suck on while we pushed ourselves as high as we could on the porch swing. I spent my days listening to her old 78 records or looking through her cedar chest where she kept a fur stole and a tissue wrapped piece of her hair. I don’t know how she got a fur stole and why people kept their hair when it was cut, but it was endlessly fascinating to me. Her cedar chest is in my bedroom. I can’t remember if the fur stole is still in there or not, down at the bottom.

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The other piece of furniture I have from that house is my great-grandmother’s desk, which I have had since I was 12. I need to think about passing that along to one of my granddaughters, if either is interested.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can tell, I am more than sentimental about my family. The older I get, the more fascinating their stories are to me because they explain so much about who my parents were and who I became because of my ancestors. I like the links to my ancestors and I like having them around me.

My last vivid memory of my grandmother’s house was soon after I was married and my husband and I stopped by. It was early 1967. We probably didn’t visit much after that, being busy having our own kids and getting our first home and building our life in Tulsa. At some point, my grandmother sold the house and moved to a smaller house a couple of blocks away until she was crippled by Rheumatoid Arthritis, almost overnight, and spent the rest of her life in nursing homes, dying in 1981 in Tulsa. At least my children got to meet her, although they didn’t get the joy of being around her when she was at her best.

With no relatives in Ardmore, I hadn’t returned for years until 2014, when a friend of mine and I made an impulse trip to that area. I started driving around town, finding the cemetery and then the houses my grandmother lived in. I found many familiar places and the memories flooded my mind. My grandmother’s house was looking ragged, but was still standing. When I was taking a photo, someone walked up to me on the street and said it was probably a crack house. The neighborhood had definitely changed, but it had been decades since I had been here. My friend and I ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant downtown before we left. The restaurant was in an old store downtown and the food was good, the people very nice. I didn’t think anything else about it.

Last month, I was driving to Texas and had a glitch in my plans, so I ended up with an unexpected stay in Ardmore. The drive down is different with the Interstate highway. When I was young, we drove through small town after small town until we hit the Arbuckle Mountains with the winding roads and steep drop-offs. Large trucks met us as we drove around the curves cut through the rocks. Here’s an old postcard I found showing part of the road. I have to laugh now since I’ve driven through the Alps and the Rockies, but it was scary to a little girl in the back seat looking down the slopes. IMG_4269Once we got through the Arbuckles, we kept our eyes open for the standpipe, signaling that we were in Ardmore. I can’t tell you how it delights me to see it to this day, even though the highway is located a few blocks away.DSC_0011My summer stop this year left me with an evening of daylight, so I drove to the cemetery and then looked for the houses once again. To my delight, my grandmother’s house looked like someone new had moved in and was taking care of it. The whole neighborhood was starting to look a little better. They closed in the front porch years ago, but I can look at the house from each side and see how it used to look. DSC_0016I have no idea what possessed a 71 year old woman, me, traveling alone to suddenly stop and ring the doorbell. I was greeted by a man who wasn’t unfriendly, but was surprised to see me. I started pouring out the story of my family and the house to him and he took interest. He had to leave and I wasn’t going to intrude, but he asked questions about the house and I told him I would send him some more information. He told me his family had moved to Ardmore from Central American and found the house taped up. I think they were able to get it if they agreed to fix it up.

About a week after I got home, I wrote the family (whose name I didn’t catch, but I knew the address) and sent them a rough drawing (I can’t draw) of the inside of the house as I remembered it and a little history and the few pictures I could find. I thanked them again for taking care of the house that had meant so much to me.

This week, I received a letter from the 21 year old son of the family. First of all, how many 21 year old boys would write to a stranger, an old stranger at that? I was immediately touched. He told me the story of his family’s move to America in 2015 from El Salvador, where it had become too unsafe and too economically insecure to stay. I can’t imagine what it took to make that decision. His family consists of his father, mother, and three sons, ages 25, 21, and 19.

The oldest son is a computer programmer and has taken some courses in Oklahoma City since moving here. The middle son, the one who wrote me, had a year of college in El Salvador, studying electrical engineering. He is trying to get into college here and is studying to get his ACT scores high enough to get a full scholarship. He has set a goal for himself and is sure he can reach it. The youngest son just graduated from high school as the Valedictorian (after being here only two years). The mother happens to work in the Mexican restaurant where my friend and I had eaten and makes the tortillas and cleans the tables. The father works as a handyman, learning new skills which are helping him with the house remodel. All the boys have jobs in either restaurants or other places around town. Here’s the family.family - Version 2

In a year when I have questioned what is happening to our country, when I have wondered how I can make a difference or help or educate myself or do something, this is a pretty strong reminder of what America is all about. My relatives on my mother’s side made their way from Europe and worked their way across the south farming until they ended up in Indian Territory before it was Oklahoma. When the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and all the other hard times of the 1930s and then the War in the 1940s came to test this young widow and her children further, they found a safe haven in their home in Ardmore, where they took care of each other with love and hard work through those years until the children all grew up into productive adults with very nice lives.

Decades passed and that house still stood strong with who knows what families moving in and out. When the house was about at the end of its use, this lovely family arrived in America with new hopes and dreams. They reached out to me with warm hearts and open arms, inviting me to come see the house and meet them in person. The photos they sent show me the work they have done on the house and how delightful it is. Although I can see where walls have been knocked out through the years (such as from the kitchen to the sleeping porch), I could recognize certain things. The kitchen sink is right where it always was and those may be the original cabinets. I knew that spot in my heart immediately.

As my new friend wrote, “We are working little jobs right now because we just haven’t had the opportunity to do something bigger, but we’re making our lives change little by little and one day we’ll be in a better position.” Isn’t that what America offers all of us – the chance to work and make our lives better?

I now have an email, so I wrote back immediately. My new young friend sent me photos of the family, their cat, and the inside of the house. I reciprocated with some of my own family. The photos show a home much like any of ours, including one of a birthday party of his brother where the Santa placemats on the table are similar to some I have and the cake looks like one we would have in our family. We aren’t different at all when you look at it.

Of course, I’m going to find a time to visit again when all of our schedules allow us to be together. A line jumped out at me from the return email I received.

“Is nice to know that there are still nice people in this world!”

Isn’t it?

You can call it a road trip, but I was mostly meandering my way from Tulsa, OK to my sister-in-law’s in Spring Branch, TX. Truly, this is something I inherited from my mother, who loved to take off and drive. Something about getting out of the city into the countryside… Remember when everyone used to take Sunday drives?

The interstate was great for what it is great for – getting there as fast as you can. As far as relaxing, forget it as you dodge the semi-trucks and try to keep the pace of traffic going much faster than the speed limit. Sometime during the past few days, I had a memory of our family driving back and forth to Oklahoma City every weekend with no air conditioning listening to the radio on Sunday nights as we came back from visiting our cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. When my kids were little, my husband drove a lot for business and got a CB radio. Think Smokey & the Bandit years. His handle was One Tall Tree (he was nicknamed Tree for being 6’4″) and I smiled listening to him use the lingo to talk to the truckers on the highway. Everything is faster now and there are cell phones and the truckers don’t give us a friendly on their air horn as we pass. Sigh.

I stopped in Davis, OK at Bedre Chocolates, the only chocolate factory and shop owned by a Native American tribe, I believe. The Chickasha do it right, selling their fancy sweets to stores like Neiman Marcus.IMG_3062

Down the road, I left I-35 to stop for a fried pie. This trip will begin to seem like it’s all about food, but it’s more about the smells and tastes and memories of a lifetime. Anyway,  I was in the Arbuckle Mountains, the route I used to take to get to my grandmother’s in Ardmore. In my childhood, this part of the drive was curvy roads with trucks zooming around every turn. They’re not exactly the Rockies, but a fall off a mountain is still a fall. Two lanes with no shoulders was a bit of a scare to my little girl view. I found this old postcard with a view from above, although it doesn’t show the S-curves.IMG_3303I had a sense of the old days when I left the interstate. Back to the fried pies. They come in every flavor from meat to fruit to custards and are warm and yummy. IMG_3061IMG_3290I wound through narrow roads, passing old fashioned cabins where hot Oklahomans excepted the brutal heat of summer in the cool waters in these hills (well, mountains). I stopped at the Turner Falls lookout for a glimpse of the people playing in the water below the falls. There was so much more water after the spring rains. It looked like Niagara then. DSC_0001The playground goes above and below the falls in a family favorite place to visit. Delightful!IMG_3286Leaving the falls, I was surprised to see that wind farms have taken over. I’m not sure what my feelings are, but I do think they are mesmerizing to watch, like giant pinwheels. I hope they prove to be a great alternative to the dirtier fuels we use.DSC_0099The Arbuckle roads are carved out of rock and I remember my mother telling us how geologists studied the layers that had been cut through for the roads. When we left these curves, the drive was a straight shot into Ardmore, where the first thing I looked for was the standpipe. It almost makes me cry to still see it, even though it’s surrounded by new business and development. There was a sign saying Happy 108th Birthday on it. You like some things to never change. In the olden days, you could see it from a long way away and it meant we were almost there…DSC_0011Having started later than I planned, I found a motel, checked in and then left to see Ardmore, where I spent many a happy summer day catching horned toads, walking to the ice house, walking downtown with my grandmother, picking pears from the tree in her back yard, swinging on the porch swing, sucking on Kool-Aid squares (made in an ice cube tray, but we called them squares). My aunt and uncle lived in my great-grandmother’s old house, across the street from Central Park with it’s old fashioned band stand. Before they were born, the house was attached to the West Wagon Yard, owned by my great-grandfather and my grandfather. The Wests were early Ardmore settlers and owned property around town.

Before it turned dark, I headed for Rose Hill Cemetery to visit the relatives. I still don’t believe in burial because, after all, I’ve only been to see them about four times in fifty years. I came through a few years ago and wrote down the location so I didn’t have to wander around like I did before. There they were: my great-grandparents, their son who died young, my grandfather and grandmother, my two uncles and their wives. It seems strange that my mother isn’t there, but she was cremated and wanted to be scattered with my father’s ashes. IMG_3065I drove around town, looking for places I remembered. There was the bank where my uncle worked, first as a teller and then as vice-president before he had to retire early with health problems. It still looks like it did when I was a child, although I didn’t want to spoil my memory of the fancy teller cages with the brass and iron by going inside.IMG_3080The high school my mother and uncles attended is run down and for sale. I hope they repurpose the structure to save the history, but I’m one for historic preservation.IMG_3082The Tivoli theatre still stands, but not for movies. Daube’s Department Store is long gone but was one of our favorite places to go with my grandmother.DSC_0019My great-grandparents’ home was sold years ago and is now an art center, which is nice. I found both the houses my grandmother lived in. One looks much the same, while the other one is dramatically changed. I can still tell it’s the house and its familiarity warms my soul. Here is a photo of my mother in front with the porch swing and steps I remember so well. This was maybe 1940.Scan 63Here’s the front of the house today. Driving to see all sides, I can place every room even with the dramatic changes. The biggest mystery is how the street is so much narrower than I remember (Ha), but, it’s been about 40 years since the changes started.DSC_0017Really, I saw this house a couple of years ago and it looked much rougher. I was taking pictures on the corner and someone told me it was probably a crack house. I was so delighted to see that it was being taken care of again and still standing that I pulled up and rang the doorbell. Here is the amazing story of that conversation.

A man peeked through the blinds and answered the door. I told him that I used to live there – or my mother and grandmother did – and thanked him for taking care of it. I could see behind him that the inside is a work in progress so I didn’t ask to come in, but stood there pouring out the story of the house and it’s occupants back in my childhood. He told me that he and his wife and three children had moved from Central America and found the house with a note saying it was unliveable unless someone fixed it, so they took it on. He asked if the house was 50 years old and I told him that I’m 71 and played here as a baby and my mother grew up here. It has to be around 100 years old. He asked if I have pictures and I thought I did, although the one above is the only one. At least I can tell him the stories. He was very pleased and thanked me and I thanked him. He told me the family’s name, but now I’ve forgotten. I was so delighted that this lovely family was caring for the house. My grandmother was widowed at age 27 with three children during the depression. My mother said the only thing that gave them dignity when they were struggling was owning this house. It’s nice to see that it will help another family as they find their place in our society. A fitting ending no matter what happens next.

The next morning, I went to a cafe that was one of the first drive-ins back in the 1950s. My grandmother wasn’t a very good driver, but she had a big old car and piled my brother, sister and one of our cousins in to go there for hot dogs and a Pepsi (her favorite). I have a vivid memory of the day when a reporter for The Daily Ardmoreite wrote a short piece describing us coming to the drive-in. Such was news in those peaceful days – I have the clipping to prove it. DSC_0013Now it’s a cafe, the kind of place that you know is good by the locals who are there. The biscuits were lighter than I have had in years. The folks were talking with friends and I warmed to the lyrical sound of their voices, the sweet sounds of my childhood. When’s the last time you heard someone say “my land” to show surprise? Or talking about gittin’ to work? IMG_3092I left Ardmore where they fly their flags proudly to head to Texas.DSC_0015DSC_0020I was tiring of the Interstate, looking for the way to the back road I prefer. Going towards Ft. Worth, I saw a Buc-ee’s at the next exit. If you’re not familiar with this Texas-sized stop, try one. Hard to explain, but you’ll find everything you could possibly need on the road – from gas to food to gifts and clothing. It’s a road stop shopping extravaganza.DSC_0041Anyway, as I took the access road, Dale Earnhardt Way, or something like that, I realized that I was smack in the middle of the Texas Motor Speedway. Since nobody was around, I drove through, taking in the huge facility. I can only imagine when the races are actually happening. I had the luxury of being the only driving around, so I took it all in. IMG_3109DSC_0028IMG_3102Moving along, I looked for my exit, only to be caught in freeway traffic and construction. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I circled the city and headed into Texas country. At one point, I turned on my directions on my phone and soon found myself directed out into the hinterlands, off on farm roads. What the heck? It was ok. I was in beautiful country, ranches hidden in the trees.

When you get out away from the interstates, you find wonderful roads with few trucks, not much traffic, and gorgeous views of all that is big ole wide Texas. Here are roads with mailboxes lined up on the posts, indicating that there are more homes down that dirt way. In Texas especially, you make a statement as people enter your property. Sometimes there is a small ranch with an elaborate gate. It’s all fun to see. I wanted to collect them all, but only got a few. Here’s one with the American and Texas flags flying. You see a lot of flags out here.DSC_0054Here are two that are across the road from each other…IMG_3281IMG_3283Those are slightly more elaborate than some, but interesting. Here’s my favorite of all time, located in Johnson City. El Ranch Not So Grande says it all, doesn’t it?IMG_3233Speaking of this place – who knew there were so many goat farms in this area? I saw more goats than cattle for a long stretch.IMG_3234I made my way south on Highway 281, enjoying the green views, watching thunderheads build from the summer heat, hawks flying across the sky. Little towns, cowboy towns, western towns. I didn’t stop except for gas and the Dairy Queen. What is a road trip without a dip cone in the summer? Driving without dripping all over yourself is fun.IMG_3240I arrived at my sister-in-law’s, deep in Texas Hill Country, where she lives on 7 1/2 acres of rugged beauty. Deer jump the fence and come to the house, birds sing, and you can see only the beautiful Live Oaks and cedars everywhere you look. She doesn’t have a horse any more, but the barn is now her art studio. Since I was last there, the area around has grown up. We debated whether it is better to welcome development in a small town or let the town die. There used to be nothing and now there is a Walmart, Home Depot, medical care, and everything else. She doesn’t have to drive so far, so she’s happy. Her view hasn’t changed, so all is good for her. It’s changing though.IMG_3130The area she has lived in since 1977 is the part of Texas where Germans settled to create their own society. The towns reflect that heritage with names like New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, and so on. In the middle of Mexicans and Indians and cowboys, there are Germans. It’s America, after all.

We went to Boerne for lunch the next day, a hot summer day in Texas. We ate in an old building that has been brought back to life as it started with a cafe, bakery and store. In between, it has served many purposes, even as a garage. Outside, it looks like its early pictures with a new coat of paint. It’s located at Hauptstrasse and Main deep in the heart of Texas. IMG_3158With German names everywhere I looked, I thought this statue must be one of the old German settlers. Nope – Wild Bill Hickok. Of course. Note the gazebo where German music has been played for a century in the background.IMG_3162After a day relaxing in the pool visiting with my sister-in-law and her long time neighbor, also from Oklahoma originally, and a dinner of chicken-fried steak at the local restaurant, it was time to head home the next day. Which way to go?

When I got to Johnson City, with these unassuming signs indicating the most famous son, I decided I needed to visit the LBJ Ranch. DSC_0097I’d been around during his political years and there is much to be admired about that old tough cowboy. In Johnson City, the National Park Service offers information and tours of his boyhood home and an old settlement. I drove around and then headed 14 miles out of town to the ranch. On the way, I stopped to take this picture. The town lists pop. 150. Hye, TX.IMG_3181The LBJ Ranch is run by the National Parks and the Texas Parks, so it has to be good. I LOVE the parks, by the way. There is much to see and it can be easily driven, so I gave it a quick look, having visited farms before. After passing the first Head Start School and Lutheran Church, I crossed the Pedernales River to the ranch. There was the one room school house LBJ attended and the house where he was born down the road from his grandfather’s place. The most peaceful place was the Johnson Family Cemetery. What a lovely spot to be, under the spreading Live Oaks in a little walled off cemetery. IMG_3186You couldn’t enter, but there were all the headstones. The flowers are for Lady Bird, our lover of wildflowers.DSC_0070Entering the actual working ranch, I thought it looked too perfect with cattle on both sides of the road as I went through the gate.IMG_3192Those wide open spaces, the cattle, the big skies…I could picture LBJ riding this range with ease. It seemed so natural for him. At one point I spotted a mother deer and fawn in the trees by the road. As a city girl, I still get excited about seeing deer, but I understand when people live with them all the time. They multiply, eat the things in the yard, and can be a nuisance. I still like to see them.DSC_0082DSC_0076I passed the show barns where LBJ’s prize cattle were shown. The park ranger had told me I could stop and learn how to rope steer, but I passed on that. It was hot, for one thing. By the house, I got out, gulping water to walk a bit in the searing middle of the day. First was Air Force 1/2, as LBJ called it. They couldn’t land a big plane on the property, so they used this one. It was so small compared to the luxury of Air Force One. I had to stoop to get through the door and I’m only 5’4″ these days. IMG_3199IMG_3200I walked to the house, checking out the very small command center for the Secret Service. The house is a big ranch house, but nothing too imposing really. It fits nicely on the property, overlooking a pond, big Live Oaks all around. There was a house adjacent that may have been for guests with a swimming pool between. I didn’t wait around for the ranger’s tour.IMG_3205Leaving the ranch, which I thoroughly enjoyed seeing, I made the turn to go to Luckenbach. I’ve been there before, but, hey, I was in the neighborhood. The scenery had changed since I was last here. Now it’s wine country and I probably passed 50 wineries in ten miles. There was even a wine shuttle taking people between the tasting rooms. I passed wineries and peach stands along the way. Peaches and grapes in the Texas Hill Country in the summer are the thing. I stopped on the way back to get some peaches because my mother always stopped at fruit stands and I absolutely cannot pass them by. The peaches were Texas huge. I had just purchased peaches in Oklahoma from one of our orchards, so I was in a peach kind of mood. These were yummy.IMG_3232Luckenbach, Texas is a mecca for tourists and music lovers. It consists of the old Post Office and a couple of buildings for restrooms, food, and one selling cowboy hats. There is a stage for musicians to gather. It’s cute and fun and one of those gotta stop places. On the way, I passed this farm with a front patch of dead trees (pic doesn’t show them all). Must be eerie at night.DSC_0095Luckenbach was as I remembered with more parking places for when it’s hopping. There were people on cycles and tourists galore, picking up souvenirs, just as it should be.IMG_3226There is a bar at the back of the old post office and I greeted the sleeping cat, the bar cat that catches the bar mice, as one man noted.IMG_3217IMG_3218I headed back to Johnson City and then north again, stopping to drive through a few of the towns. My final destination was Hico, Texas, a little western town. Hico has a scenic Main Street with a large Mexican restaurant on the corner. I have to note that when you go through these towns, you should look for the local cafe or the local Mexican restaurant if you want a good meal. It’s true everywhere in the country!IMG_3265I toured the Billy the Kid Museum, which has a fun story since who knows if Billy the Kid really lived there,IMG_3254and checked out the old Opera House around the corner.IMG_3258I circled back to the road and found the famed chocolate shop and walked across the street to the Koffee Kup Family Restaurant. It had to be good. IMG_3270When a menu says their specialties are Chicken Fried Steak, Onion Rings and Pies, you just know. Yes, they were all excellent, especially the pie. I chose chocolate meringue (so rich), but they have a bunch of flavors. People were buying whole pies, by the way.IMG_3277The place was the real deal, complete with some of the owner’s aunt’s salt and pepper collection. IMG_3271IMG_3278I was full even though I didn’t finish everything, but it was time to move along, leaving this charming town behind me. Now I needed to see how far I could get…heading north. Was I too tired to drive all the way home? Probably. The question was answered after I hit the Chisholm Trail Parkway, which follows the old cattle trail but doesn’t resemble anything about it, and headed into Ft. Worth. Everything was pretty smooth for a Saturday night until we screeched on our brakes. I was then trapped on the freeway with no exits, construction for three lanes beside me, inching along, for 45 minutes. I played Dice with Friends on my iPad with my sister-in-law to kill the time. We rose higher and higher on the freeway, locked in place. This was the most tiring part of the whole trip. When I finally escaped, I had to find a motel and ended up back in Ardmore in a complete turn around.

The next morning, I slept late and headed home, leaving the Interstate as quickly as I could to cross Oklahoma in a leisurely, if slow, way. It was beautiful with green hills all around. I drove through into Davis in a quick downpour that caused me to pull over because I couldn’t see. Then through Sulphur, next to the beautiful park that used to be Platt National Park when I was young and played in its creeks, where Little Niagara Falls still runs. Heading north, the highway was smooth and empty and delightful. What a refreshing drive with green all around me.

As I pondered the lakes and creeks and rivers, trees and hills and fields, I was back in forests of Blackjack Oak, rugged trees. I passed from the Chickasha Nation to the Seminole and then Sac and Fox Nations, where I passed a casino across from a beautiful park named for Jim Thorpe, out in the middle of nowhere. I had passed through Ada and Prague, where the Czechs settled in Oklahoma and they hold their yearly Kolache Festival in May. I entered Stroud, where three sizable earthquakes had shaken the land from Oklahoma City to Tulsa to Claremore a few days before. Stupid man-made earthquakes are beginning to damage homes and businesses. A tough issue in an oil state. Stroud looked ok – at least the famed Rock Cafe on Route 66 was still standing. I headed home on Route 66, now lost in thought as I absorbed all I had seen. All the little towns I’d passed through, all the people I had seen. There was a tiny tow-headed girl practicing riding a horse in a small pen while her father watched. There were old buildings, some falling down, all with some kind of history. Through the little towns, heading to the big city, I was almost home.

I take drives when I can. It refreshes me and gives me time to think. Going off the highways, back where the people live, helps to bridge some gaps. We are a nation of immigrants and natives, finding our way, different but the same in so many ways. It all makes me think and hope. Thanks for going with me.

 

 

During the past exciting week, I have had two grandsons graduate from high school and have been keeping my 6 year old granddaughter while her mother is on a nursing trip to Nicaragua. The flurry of activities has been a welcome relief from the incessant yammering of politicians and pundits talking through our craziest election year ever. It’s the craziest because we have to hear about it all the time unless we have wonderful distractions to clear our brains.

I grew up very white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the country in what is now the reddest of red states as far as voting conservatively. I’m not sure why that is because I used to do some work for the American Red Cross in this area, out in the rural counties, where I found the population to be very diverse and very blended. Anyway, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, mid-century they are calling it now. My high school had one African-American student out of thousands and I think he was the son of the janitor. He was very well liked, but I realize now how hard it must have been for him. Our other ethnic students were from the foreign exchange program, so they were well accepted.

It was college before I began to meet kids who were different from me and that was still rare at Oklahoma State University, where I was excited to meet real cowboys at a school where our mascot was a real cowboy. I had one African-American friend, from Arkansas, and she was pretty open with us about her experiences. I also made some Lebanese friends, male and female, who had come to America to flee the terror in their country or as exchange students. One of them was in our wedding and lives near me today. My husband loved this guy and they could tease each other with affection, “camel jock” never being used other than as a joke that made them both laugh. I’m sure our friend had never been on a camel just as we had never lived in a teepee, as most people thought we did in Oklahoma.

It’s been a gradual change through the years as I helped enroll Vietnamese refugee children at my children’s elementary school, wondering if we could ever pronounce their names correctly. I remember meeting little Thuy, Hung, and Fa as kindergarteners, shy little children in a strange place. My children’s most beloved teachers in elementary school were African American and Middle Eastern and we didn’t really even think about it.

When I worked at the American Red Cross, I worked with a diversity program since the Red Cross serves all people and we were trained to respect their cultures in order to help them in times of disaster. It was an education in all the cultures who lived in our area at the time, turn of the century (21st century). There were Russians, Muslims, Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and many others living in our city at the time. I had no idea there were so many cultures right here where I grew up.

When I’d served on the Board of the American Red Cross many years before, I’d been one of the first to distribute information about AIDS to the community since the Red Cross is a leading supplier of blood products. The information consisted of a pamphlet explaining the disease. When I came back as a staff member, this area had grown and I became an HIV/AIDS educator, learning how to take the information into the Native American population. One of my dearest friends was the diversity expert at the time and I learned of her childhood as a half Native American child growing up poor in Tulsa, the side of Tulsa I didn’t know about as I grew up. Now she’s a PhD, a far cry from her struggles earlier.

All of these things have grown in my mind through the years as I’ve been exposed through volunteer work and the time at Red Cross to the diversity in our community. I never felt threatened by it and welcomed the different cultures. I’ve been fortunate to travel to many countries, the best way to realize that people are as alike as they are different on this planet.

This past week, watching my beloved grandchildren with their friends and out in the community, I realized how very far we have come. At the school where I graduated in such a white class, seven of my grandchildren have friends who don’t match them in color, but they don’t seem to care too much. If they like them, they accept them. Here’s a random photo I took of my grandson running onto the field with his football team  DSC_0081   In this photo, looking at it today, I see his best friend who has a very Italian family, a Native American, an Hispanic, black students and coaches, white students and my grandson (with the beard) who probably looks Middle Eastern if you don’t know his family. These kids are a team that worked and played together on and off the field.

Here’s my other graduating grandson as  the tall captain of the soccer team with his Hispanic co-captain.IMG_9895I arrived at commencement early by myself to save seats for the families and sat through part of the graduation of another high school. This school has a higher percentage of Hispanic and African American families than my school, but the result is the same. I watched large family groups whoop with pride as their student crossed the stage to receive his or her diploma. They all had cell phones or cameras to take a million pictures of their child’s special day. No red carpet will have as many flashes as a graduation. Everyone is all smiles, swelling with pride. The experience is the same for all of us and I teared up watching kids and families I don’t even know.

Thank goodness my grandsons are in the same class so I didn’t have to sit through another ceremony with the speeches that are to inspire us and will be forgotten in a minute. The good part is listening to the students speak and then walk across the stage. One of the largest cheers from the crowd went out for Javier, a beloved Hispanic student. Another was for this great kid, one of the student leaders of the class, who won an award for representing Native Americans so well. I watched him on the football field, with the drama students, and at assemblies and I agree. In my day, nobody acknowledged Native American heritage, even in a state where we have more tribes than any other, and today we embrace it.13263764_1022420817835511_160239830595331892_nStudents of all ethnic backgrounds flung their hats in the air, ready to enter a world where their next steps might go in all directions. For this day, they were celebrated for being who they are.13241333_1022420561168870_2207988693638277508_nHere’s to my boys, hoping all good things for their futures.13237747_1022421881168738_4114059906056242530_nA few days later, I took my granddaughter to the zoo. It was a sunny Sunday so families were out in force. As we walked and walked that day, I heard voices all around me speaking in various languages from English to Chinese to Spanish. Watching the people, I realized there was no difference. We were all saying the same things for the same reasons. “Stay close!” “Stop running!” “Come here!” No matter whether you are a Mimi or an abuela, a Daddy or a Grandad, by whatever name you call us, we are all there to share the experience. We all paid the money, carried the children, pushed the babies in strollers, rode the train, and said “Look!” with excitement as we shared the experience of seeing a giraffe in person IMG_8076or met the penguins up close.IMG_8037We had the same experience that day, generations of families together making memories for our children and grandchildren. It didn’t matter what language we spoke or where we came from. We were all trying to ride herd on little ones, watching them play, keeping them safe from the dangers all around us, and loving them so very much. There was no difference in our hearts at the zoo that day.

Last night, my granddaughter introduced me to a place I’ve driven by many times and never noticed. It is a Mexican bakery and was delightful with its variety of baked goods, its cleanliness, its friendly service. I looked it up on the internet because I was fascinated that it is a 5th generation business. Started in 1912 in Mexico, it became one of the largest bakeries in that area of the country. For some reason not given, one of the family members came to American in  1998 and opened the bakery in Tulsa. They have three bakeries here and are about to open a fourth with the vision not only to make pastries rich in ingredients and taste, but also to promote family values and unity. How American can you get? Or how Mexican.

This morning, the television came on blaring the latest ugliness in our election. I think all the candidates and the commentators need to take a day off and go to the zoo. It’s much more civilized there amongst the animals.

Wherever you live, there is beauty all around you, history to learn, and good food to eat. To a traveler, ordinary things seem exotic or, at the very least, different from what you see at home. The comparisons are good and the differences delight. When I go to Oregon, I absolutely immerse myself in everything that is coastal and part of Oregon so I can take that back to Oklahoma to absorb into my existence there, enriching my life with the comparisons and the vast diversity of our country.

More reflections on my latest visit to the Pacific Northwest…

They have signs we don’t have or need…DSC_0409 DSC_0693 DSC_0510This one made me wince. Isn’t that common sense? I guess not since I’ve seen people do crazy things to get a photo or to see a view. I’m overly cautious myself and that toddler would be on a leash.
DSC_0406And there are the people who disregard the signs – same as everywhere. Really! You think your climb for the view is more important than the wildlife?DSC_0682When I’m on the coast, I can’t get enough seafood because, well because it’s right there and it’s delicious. This is a trash can in downtown Astoria.DSC_0058

This is Mo’s where the clam chowder and garlic bread are delicious and they still have film?IMG_8152

And Fresh means Fresh. This fishing family brings in their own.IMG_8354

And you can watch them steam your crab while you wait. Again – right from the crabbers.IMG_8460In Oregon, I can watch the ships come in, wondering what wondrous cargo they contain.DSC_0047

These boxes are in Newport and I love the colors. I have no idea what they’re for. DSC_0393I don’t have to worry about tsunamis in Oklahoma. In Oregon, I stay on a tsunami evacuation route and have a tsunami alarm right outside the condo. DSC_0648This sign is down the street and kind of sums of my plan.DSC_0755The wildlife is definitely different in Oregon. They have whales that I can watch from my window…DSC_0523DSC_0555
Harbor seals down the street…DSC_0351and loud California sea lions I can watch while I eat in Newport.DSC_0371This year, the sea lions frolicked in the port, doing some kind of synchronized swimming and leaping in the air for fun.DSC_0389When you live in a comparatively new state like Oklahoma, the history of the coasts puts time in a better perspective. This trip, I visited the Maritime Museum in Garibaldi, where I learned about Robert Gray, who discovered the Columbia River from the Pacific side, making it easier for the United States to stake a claim after Lewis & Clark made their reports. DSC_0241In Garibaldi, I also got up close and personal with the Oregon lumber industry. Here’s an old smokestack which kept the smoke from the townspeople in its day.DSC_0297DSC_0287DSC_0288Reminded me of the pines in southeast Oklahoma. Bet some of you didn’t know we have pine forests, too.  We don’t have the lush ferns and moss in our woods that I enjoy in Oregon.IMG_8052DSC_0896The crops in Oregon are bountiful with fruits and vegetables and grapes for wine…DSC_0758 and hazelnuts (filberts)…DSC_0839DSC_0823There were seagulls on oysters shell hills that I don’t see at home…DSC_0303And lighthouses up and down the coast. IMG_8255On a glorious day at Yaquina Head, I went down (and back up – pant, pant) these steps to the cobble beach (rough walking) and the tidal pools.DSC_0426DSC_0429
DSC_0431I can never get enough ocean sunsets..    DSC_0439

And I can never ever ever get enough pounding waves. My place in the universe is put into perspective with the power and beauty.DSC_0600 DSC_0717 DSC_0272 DSC_0626 DSC_0702 DSC_0728 DSC_0591 DSC_0178 DSC_0697 DSC_0717 DSC_0103 IMG_8410

My visits to the coast always restore my soul, widen my perspective and bring me pride in this great land. I’m excited to go and excited to be back home. Isn’t that always the way?DSC_0264

It’s hard for me to believe that I’d never spent much time in St. Louis since I’ve been by, through or around it many times, so I stopped for a quick day there, studying up on the history and geography of the city as I traveled.  First, you have to see the Arch, gateway to the West.  What a great structure, simple and pure in its message.  I’m so glad it’s surrounded by a park and all the museum, gift shop, ticketing, etc is located underground.   DSC_0220You approach the arch and look out to the Mississippi River.DSC_0192Entering the pods to go to the top of the arch is like being in a sci-fi movie…DSC_0199…but the view from the top is 30 miles in each direction.DSC_0205The arch is glorious in all lights and weather.DSC_0190The history of St. Louis is intertwined with the expansion of our country west with the Mississippi River an important part.DSC_0223From the old LaClere’s Landing, the neighborhoods expand westward, each a piece in the map of history.  The Hill had been recommended to us as a “must go to” place for Italian food.  This area developed around the Italian immigrants who mined the hills.DSC_0231  Today it is a wonderful neighborhood of extreme pride and an Italian restaurant on just about every block, sometimes on every corner of an intersection.  DSC_0234I tried to find out which ones were the best and they all got great reviews.  We settled on this one for a lunch of toasted ravioli, a local favorite.IMG_4978IMG_4979Yummy!  We left the neighborhood with its Bocce ClubDSC_0232and drove around the city with all its diversity.  There are the French homes around Lafayette SquareDSC_0240and brick homes around the city that matched my image of St. Louis from before I arrived.  Downtown is the wonderful old train station, now a hotel…DSC_0227and the beautiful areas around the University of St. Louis where this old standpipe at the Compton Hill Reservoir rose above us as we drove.DSC_0238Driving around, there were so many signs of the city that tell some of its story, like this one from the days when it was sometimes referred to as Mound City for the many ancient Native American mounds in the area,DSC_0260or this old bath house.  We know there were at least six of them.DSC_0253Or this Farmer’s Market sign.  That’s an OLD business…DSC_0274I can’t leave out the food and drink that are St. Louis traditions, starting with the beers…DSC_0263with the gargoyles on the building across from the iconic Anheiser Busch structures.DSC_0273 DSC_0272There are Ted Drewe’s famous custard shoppes with frozen custard called the “concrete” because you can turn it upside down and your spoon won’t fall out…DSC_0268and ooey gooey butter cakes.  This one was ranked #1 in St. Louis for the past six years.  I attest to its deliciousness.DSC_0270

Crown Candy is famous for its Heart Stopping BLT along with its candies.  I went in but didn’t eat anything.  An old soda shop that brings lines every day.DSC_0247We ate some St. Louis BarBQue in the old industrial area.  Their most popular item was Snoots (pig snouts).  While I stood there, every call was for snoots.  They’re kind of like pork rinds, crispy.  I figured I HAD to try them.  How bad could they be if everyone was ordering them? They were good.  IMG_4974I passed this bottle sign every day, situated at a busy place near Rams stadium.  I liked everything about it.DSC_0258We ended our day with a baseball game, watching the St. Louis Cardinals.  I’d grown up listening to the games on the radio.  The new stadium is great, easy to get around, the crowd friendly and relaxed.  IMG_4981From the stadium, you can see the Arch, a few blocks away, always framing the city.DSC_0282St Louis is celebrating its 250th birthday this year.  Decorated birthday cakes are in front of businesses around town in support of this momentous occasion.  There is so much more to see and do in St. Louis, but I’m happy I got to enjoy the birthday party.  It’s an intriguing, entertaining city.DSC_0250

The year is half over.  I was reminded by email and it added to my awareness of how fast the days, months, years are rushing by.  I always said that when you reach middle age and go over the hill, the rest is a downhill slide.  Remember how the days crept along when you were a child?  School would never get out soon enough and the days dragged waiting for summer, birthdays, Halloween, Fourth of July, vacations.  You couldn’t get there fast enough.  I can’t think of the last time I couldn’t wait for my next birthday, although I’m glad I’m still here to have them.  They seem to come about every other month anyway.

The trouble with the middle age thing is that you don’t really know what your middle age is.  For my son, it was 17-18.  For my husband, it was 27-28.  For a friend who died this week, it was 34.  If you think about it that way, you start living your life in a way that celebrates every day you have.

So this year is flashing by and it’s time to assess how to spend the rest of the year.  I want to do so much and there is so much to do and they aren’t always the same.  There is work to do and play ahead.  Sigh.

So, this blog is ending quickly.  How much time do I have anyway?

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For the past few weeks, every time my cats decided to sunbathe on the deck on their favorite chair or glider, a Mockingbird would fly down and perch about a foot from them, giving them a warning round of chirps. The bird was pretty intense andthe cats just laid their ears back and took the abuse.  I knew there was a nest nearby and the cats were getting warned.

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Today, it happened.  I don’t know where the nest is, but the babies all appeared in my yard, four of them, flopping their short wings in an attempt to fly.  When I stepped outside, the mother was watching overhead, trying to help them as she could.  The first two I saw were by the fence, hopping and flapping.  This one finally made it down the yard, through the fence and up to a branch about a foot off the ground in the yard next door where my dogs can’t get it.

DSC_0025The second one hopped in the opposite direction and made it along the fence where a puppy was following it with its own baby curiosity.  It went through the fence into another yard where there was no dog, thank goodness.  But now the mother had two babies in different directions.  My own mom instincts were pretty high as I attempted to reassure her that I was trying to help herd them.  I couldn’t think where they could go where there was no danger.

Two more appeared.  I still don’t know where the nest is.  This one headed for the fence by the puppy and they stared at each other for a bit until I herded it away.  It flew at me, came up two steps of the deck and fell under the deck.  I guess it’s hopping around still.

DSC_0028The next one flopped around, heading for the deck and stopped to pose.  DSC_0034DSC_0037All I can think is that they are too young to leave the nest.  Their heads are covered in fuzz, their wings are too short.  There is too much danger lurking right here in my yard, much less the rest of the neighborhood. The mother is now looking at me and getting puffed up.  I understand that completely.DSC_0031DSC_0032You can’t imagine how much I relate.  I had four kids and they went in all directions.  Not on the same day, thank goodness.  I’m picturing the mother bird’s day, flying from yard to yard, trying to oversee their first day on their own, maybe even feeding them if they haven’t figured that out yet.

All those emotions are coming back to me, watching my bird counterpart out there.  My oldest grandson leaves for college next year.  I don’t know if he’s ready, even though his wings are definitely long enough.  But there’s all that danger out there, all those unknowns.  Even knowing you can’t protect them forever and they have to get out from under their mother’s wing sooner rather than later, it’s stressful for moms.  And dads.  And grandparents.

It’s nature’s way for our young to leave the nest.  They may fall out too soon, they may be adventurous and fly out on their own, or they may get kicked out.  We’re all in this together, birds, animals, humans of all races and ethnicities.  We all want our babies to survive and fly.  And soar.

Several years ago, my son, who was both a cook and an expert on pop culture, told me that food trucks would be the next big thing.  I knew he was right because he never missed on those kind of things and I even looked into a food truck for him.  He had great ideas, but not enough time with us to make all of them happen.  Because of that, I look at food trucks fondly and have followed the rise in popularity, just as he predicted.

We’re not talking about food trucks on the midway of the state fair now.  These are mobile kitchens full of culinary delights from some of the best cooks around.  You see them on street corners, tucked away on vacant lots, and in organized places.  I’ve been to parties with food trucks owned by local caterers, a fun touch of good food and atmosphere.

In Portland, there are blocks of them and you can eat any kind of food you like or want to try everyday downtown.  In a city with lots of parks and a fairly mild climate, it’s like a festival every day.

P9090031In Austin, there are food truck lots close to downtown with treats for all, matching the funky feeling in that city.DSC_0009In Tulsa, we have Food Truck Wednesday downtown and workers, artists, and the rest of us folks line up in the shadows of downtown buildings…IMG_4852One of our best local chefs closed one of his restaurants and operates from his food truck now.  Yum!10411378_10203172790017295_2067858657220542596_nWhat’s the appeal?  Why do we stand there waiting for food like this chicken and waffles with chipolte maple syrup and pineapple salsa?IMG_4853

I think there is something inherently fun about it.  It’s just that simple.  I like being outside waiting for the food, watching the people, talking to strangers about what to order and then munching on a delicious lunch.  It’s a totally different experience than a restaurant.  There’s an upscale festival atmosphere that brings good vibes.

I don’t know how else to explain it.  It’s just fun…like these mini donuts cooked in front of me in a small trailer then drizzled with caramel, chocolate and nuts.  Just wicked fun.IMG_4855

Being in Los Angeles is a trip to many worlds within the city, illustrated by signs of today and yesterday.  Some pictures were taken from a moving car – not as good, but they capture the images of Los Angeles, palm trees and all.

DSC_0209This one intrigues me for whatever reasons.  I passed it several times a day.

DSC_0006Saturday morning with the Jewish men walking to worship.

 

DSC_0028Historic Broadway Theatre Tour given by the L.A. Conservancy on Saturday mornings.  Walked by and in some of the theaters where vaudeville played and audiences first saw silent movies.

DSC_0071My favorite of the old theaters.

DSC_0104These were movie palaces…

DSC_0181Now a richly Hispanic area, there were flags everywhere…

DSC_0106And festive dresses for Quinceañeras and weddings, buzzing on a busy shopping day.

DSC_0107DSC_0046Beautiful Art Deco buildings.  Johnny Depp owns two penthouses in this one, according to our guide.

DSC_0161And there are random things that make you smile…

DSC_0184And reflect…

DSC_0169Los Angeles is a diversity of cultures…

DSC_0205This one makes me laugh since it was deep in a Hispanic neighborhood.  Jim is trying to offer it all.

DSC_0210The drives around town take you to places both exotic…

DSC_0231and scenic…

DSC_0219with signs that make you ask where do they come up with that?

DSC_0225There are entertaining signs that have been there for decades

DSC_0151_2and there are signs of the entertainment business that we all associate with La La Land…

IMG_4763and love…

DSC_0149My favorite was driving down the street and seeing Kermit…

DSC_0021He rose above the studio where Charlie Chaplin once roamed.

DSC_0017There are tributes to stars of the past…

DSC_0041And beautiful theaters still entice in neighborhoods…

DSC_0234You can always find a good meal in Los Angeles…  Lacy’s has a great breakfast…

DSC_0003Porto’s in Burbank, or other locations, is a wonderful American success story.  The Cuban family that owns it inspires with their history, their delicious salads, sandwiches and soups and their famous cakes, breads and pastries that make me drool to even think about…I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a busy place with such happy employees, every one of them.

 

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IMG_4727This is a wonderful Greek restaurant on Ventura Blvd.

IMG_5022Such was my most recent trip to Los Angeles, capped off by lovely visits with friends, including Scott Wilson, who let me hold his head, a souvenir from “The Walking Dead.”  What would the trip be without a brush with celebrity?

IMG_3864Los Angeles is always entertaining.

 

 

I graduated from college on a Sunday in 1967 and went to work as a grocery store checker the next day. Needless to say, my parents were a little shocked with my choice, but I had a job teaching at the university the next fall, a graduate assistant, and needed something to do that summer. I was newly married and my husband joined the union, another shocker, and went to work in construction for the summer. We became blue collar workers for those few months. The jobs actually paid more than anything else in our university town, probably more than the $1 hour my husband later earned in the pizza place where he worked while going to school. The $1 an hour was the manager’s pay.

Anyway, I got more education that summer, lessons in serving the public and in the way those who do are often treated by their employers. My jobs up until that time had consisted of working for my father, tutoring, and being a student counselor in the dorm. Now I was working on my feet, having to learn the ever-changing prices of produce, and figuring sales tax in my head. We had no computerized cash registers or even cheat sheets for the prices or tax. We were chastised for leaning back on the counter between customers and had only a short break. I became friends with a smart girl who was working there for real, whose husband was a highway patrolman. She was delightful and taught me a lot. I remember the lines of people coming in from the country on Saturdays, the farmers who piled their carts high as they only made it in every so often. One sweet man, who I remember as being round and smelly and shy, would wait to get in my line. My admirer in overalls. There were all types back then in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and that summer was not really so bad. My cute husband would show up dirty from construction and stand at the side watching me before we went home to our duplex to laugh and play, our first summer as semi-grownups. My reality check came when I told the boss I was quitting, that I had a job at the university teaching. His treatment of me changed and it made me mad. He treated me differently for that last two weeks, more respectfully, as he still treated the others, including my friend, with disdain. I felt the injustice, the hypocrisy, and never forgot it.

I became a firm believer that everyone should have to be in a public service job at least once in his or her life.. My children all worked in retail, restaurants, or gyms, facing the public from their teens. Anybody who has ever had to serve the public has stories to tell, stories that can bring up anger, sadness, laughter. You learn how inconsiderate people can be as well as how thoughtful. You learn how cheap they can be and how generous. You learn how you can’t judge a person’s character by how well they are dressed or how much money they spend. You learn what it feels like to be ignored, treated like you’re invisible.

Here’s my son, working in a bakery. He worked in several bakeries through the years, dealing with a public who could be critical and insensitive when his voice changed, damaged by radiation treatments. Amazing how callous people can be, people educated enough to know better.

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For several years, I owned a gift shop and dealt with mostly nice people, although you never knew who was going to walk through the door. One of the things I told my employees, who were my children and my close friends, was that you can’t take anything personally if someone treats you badly. It has nothing to do with you, they don’t even know you. They may have had a bad day or be facing something really sad in their life. Or they may actually not be a very nice person. I mean, this was a pretty neat store and we still had people who acted like that, really. They could be demanding, irrational, try to cheat us, steal from us, huffy and indignant, or the extreme opposites of that. They also told us stories about their lives, whether we wanted to hear them or not. There were times I didn’t know if people came in to buy gifts or for counseling. I’m sure waiters, maids, clerks, hairdressers and others know what feeling.

I have become a more generous tipper, a more friendly customer, a person who thanks clerks with a smile. At my worst, I am merely quiet, absorbed in some personal thoughts, hoping I at least made friendly eye contact and smiled. But, I am ever mindful of what these wonderful people deal with every day at salaries that are lower than they should be, with bosses who may not treat them with the respect they deserve. It’s true that people who deal with machines are always paid better than people who deal with people, a sad commentary on the human race.

Remember this when you are served by someone. The public, the public that nobody wants to deal with, is YOU!