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The Perils Of Hiking Naked

Hiking in the wrong attire feels like hiking naked. Really. I am the living expert. Just take a gander at the masthead of this blog. That’s me, hiking in Edinburgh in a dress.

Show me a mountain with the barest hint of a trail, and up I go. It’s like I’m Teddy in the play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” bellowing CHARGE! as I disappear up the sheer incline into a thicket of who-knows-what. Living life feels like a blind charge sometimes.

It’s always a blind charge, but we humans only realize that sporadically. Last week, I found myself devastated, alone and out of sorts. Being alone isn’t something I do well. My nagging worries feed my neurotic insecurities until I become someone even I want to flee.

Luckily for me, I could see an undulating, green mountain from the window of my hotel. A few taps on Google revealed that it was a public park with hiking trails and a 360 degree view of Los Angeles. It was so close I could almost touch the relief the open air would give my sagging spirit.

You know how things look close on the expanse of ocean, even when they’re miles and miles and miles away? As it turns out, the same phenomenon happens on land.

I used my trusty iPhone to map the best pedestrian approach to the park. One.four urban miles, it jingled, through the Hollywood Hills. Easy-peasey. Perhaps I will see a celebrity! I thought as I set off up the gentle incline of the sidewalk in a dress and Mary Janes. When the sidewalk ended a third of the way, I kept charging uphill. That’s what TR* would do, and I love TR. The neighborhood was eclectic, and I wasn’t really sweating, and the car that buzzed me was possibly driven by Steve Martin or his evil twin. Fresh air. Gasping Strolling up a 15 degree incline. Just what I needed to clear the old noggin.

By the time I reached the famed Mulholland Drive, I was soaked and disheveled. More than once, people studied me like I was casing the whole area with the intention of breaking and entering. Bull-headedness propelled me along the side of the dusty, twisting road. In less than ten minutes, I found it. My phone practically exploded with the news that I was at the (now) fabled entrance to Runyon Canyon, a wonderland of hiking bliss sprawling before me.

“Beware of rattlesnakes. They are everywhere.” I wasn’t twenty yards up my chosen trail when that sign announced my impending doom. With a sigh, I forged onward. I wasn’t going back the way I came – Steven Martin might really hit me with his car. The only way through the park was through it.

A handful of ginger steps in my dress and snake-bait bare legs led me to a summit. I sat and surveyed how far I’d come when I was so unprepared and ill-equipped. Life always shows us we can do things, even when we doubt ourselves, especially when we don’t think we can. I sat on that mountaintop in my dress and Mary Janes.

And I laughed.

*TR is Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.

If you are a blogger and didn’t read my post yesterday, click here. Leave a comment on that post if you are interested in participating. I will run this message through Friday, November 4.

Happy Halloween!

Giving My Readers the Business

Over the past month or two, I have experimented with the format of my blog. I’ve varied my style of writing and the types of stories I post. Through series entries, I’ve been able to stretch my writing muscles and better exercise my own abilities. Personally, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve picked up some new readers, and others have opted to look elsewhere for daily doses of bloggity entertainment.

Looking ahead to the new year, I always institute a few sweeping changes, and I’m starting to consider those now. In evaluating my readership and response, here’s what you seem to be telling me by how you interact with my blog:

  1. My readership falls off dramatically on the weekends, and I can only take that as a sign that maybe I don’t need to post new content on those days. I try very hard to give the diehards something creative and engaging every day of the week, but I’m not going to lie. It is demoralizing to write a post like yesterday and have so few people see it. (More on that below in the Facebook section.) While I will always post every day, I am considering changes to my weekend content. Please, oh valued Diehard Readers, give me your thoughts and feedback on that possible change. Will you keep reading if I shake up the weekend content?
  2. I have attempted to change my blog such that a summary of the post is shown on the home page, with more available by clicking on a link to read. If I do things this way, it will impact the way the blog comes by email, as the entire text of the post will not display but will instead require a click to the blog to finish reading. From the number of people who come to my home page and read every day, I would have a better sense of which posts are actually being read, and that gives me a better ability to structure content to respond to what engages readers going forward. I can say from my own experience that I don’t care how the post displays, but you may, Dear Reader. Please give me your feedback – whole post displays on the home page, or an excerpt displays with a link.

Until we are compensated for our writing, the best payoff we can get as bloggers is people reading our posts and endorsing them by sharing them with others. Several bloggers have expressed an interest in mutual promotion of each other’s blog posts. Given the recent changes to Facebook, I am happy to try to start that discussion with those who are interested. I will share the following about my own experiences in recent weeks. No matter how many times or ways I promote my blog in a day, I get about the same number of impressions on Facebook, and it is about a third of what it was before the changes. Because a lot of my blog traffic came from my ability to post titillating teasers that caused people to click when they saw them, readership of my blog has suffered. I am not alone. I have talked with several other bloggers who have experienced the same thing.

If you are interested in participating in the mutual promotion of one other’s blog posts throughout our individual networks, please indicate that in a comment today. Once I can gauge who may want to participate, we can message one other privately and construct how to best construct it to benefit everyone. I am happy to promote anyone in my blog roll – particularly writers who are trying to gain a larger readership – to my social network (about 5,000 people across all platforms) in return for reciprocal sharing of my posts. We all benefit by helping each other.

And maybe, just maybe, we can beat the latest round of Facebook changes.

Heartbreak Hotel California

Really. This is the FINAL post in this week’s series, Grounded: Stories From the American Southwest. I love California, and I don’t think my post yesterday did it justice. If this is your first visit to Grounded, click here to start the series. If you’d like to subscribe to my blog, subscription boxes are on the right-hand side of the page. If you like me enough to Like me on Facebook, simply click Like in the Facebook box on the right. I’ve updated my blogroll with lots of new lovely folks. Check them out if you’re seeking more great content. As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

Heartbreak is like winter. It litters the ground with the detritus of what used to be green. Things that once bloomed with color look stripped of life, dead. Barrenness clogs sightlines, haunts the soul, saps the spirit.

That’s how I found myself at Lake Tahoe one cold December. How long is too long to mourn the loss of love? For over two years, I lived in the wasteland of a broken heart. Desolation informed my every turn. My decision to visit Lake Tahoe in winter was built upon two things: 1. a cheap flight; and 2. a life-long friend who encouraged me to see it. 

I arrived on a collision course with a cold front. In a race against the changing weather, I chose to see Emerald Bay, because it alone matched my bleak mood. The isolation of its narrow green waters beckoned me.

The sky was too burdened to stay propped up as I drove into the parking area above the spit of dull jewel-like liquid. Down a treacherous trail, past denuded trees and silence was the only path for me. I snapped some pictures of a spooky building along the shore and marveled at how the moving ice rounded out a liquified emerald. In the calm before the snow storm, I felt soothed.

This place, it was me, the landscape of my ruined heart.

Water moved over rock. I found the source and followed it, up through the trees to a rocky ledge. Suspended between the lake and the toothy ridgeline, I sat among the trees and listened to nothingness. Like a vortex, it sucked my pain into itself, took everything. In its place, dots of white blew over the ridge, the first blush of the virgin snow of the season. It coats everything it touches and recreates it anew. I let those snowflakes cling to my eyelashes and mingle with my tears. I even tried to catch a few on my tongue, pinpricks that melted and became part of me. That topography replaced my shattered heart with the scent of evergreen as I danced in the blowing snow.

I left my broken heart on that mountainside. A stunning vista is the ideal place for a burial, a spot I will always visit and relive the lightness of release. Once upon a time, she lived happily ever after.

Thanks, Sidey, for inspiring this post today.

FAME…What’s Your Name, What’s Your Name?

This is the final post in this week’s series, Grounded: Stories From the American Southwest. If this is your first visit to Grounded, click here to start the series. If you’d like to subscribe to my blog, subscription boxes are on the right-hand side of the page. If you like me enough to Like me on Facebook, simply click Like in the Facebook box on the right. I’ve updated my blogroll with lots of new lovely folks. Check them out if you’re seeking more great content. As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

For Earlybird and her mention of "True Grit"

It’s a long story.

I never thought I’d find myself in LA this week. Los Angeles. Staring down the barrel of two straight weeks of travel for work, on top of having to travel this week for work, I thought it might be fun to accompany MTM on his trip to the Urban Land Institute Conference. I created a couple of light days on my calendar and hopped a plane to the Left Coast.

There’s illusion, and there’s the real thing. LA is a city of illusion, of dream-making. It summons people from everywhere with the allure of being discovered, making it big and getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The biggest mirage of all – the star – is steps from my front door.

I’m not going to lie. Since I was a little tot, I dreamed of being famous. What would it feel like to have my name be a household word? To have people know who I am wherever I go? To earn be awarded a star of my very own? When I was younger, those hankerings came from performing, from throwing on the cloak of varied people and convincing a few that I really was the person I pretended to be. Everyone told me I was talented. I liked hearing it.

Anybody would.

Eventually, we have to grow up, to realize our sagging faces are never going to be ‘discovered,’ to accept that, no matter how much we try, we’re going to be stuck in the land of community theater. Forever. Even on my professional gigs, that’s really all it was. I don’t regret releasing that dream, even if the quest for the current one has wounded me more in the past week than the worst theatrical review I ever garnered.

Yesterday, I got to pretend again, shuffling along the (gritty, seedy, sex-shop ridden) Hollywood Walk of Fame. I always wondered how they packed all those stars into the space in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Duh. They don’t. Instead, they extend for blocks in two directions, on both sides of the street. An endless stretch of pink-and-black granite wedged into concrete, filled with names…………unfamiliar to me. Name after name after name clicked under my feet like I was walking on a movie reel. Me – a movie fanatic, a lapsed actress – recognized about a quarter of them.

Andy Garcia‘s star caught my eye, mostly because his aunt used to own a tiny grocery store and cigar shop steps from my office in Charleston. His star made me remember how much I loved her sleek Cuban hair, wound into a regal Spanish bun. How I melted when she said hello to me, because it was the closest thing I got to something foreign in my twenties. I barely remember anything Andy did, but thinking about her pride over her collection of gums and magazines, her impeccable coiffure, brought a tear.

Is the struggle to achieve fame merely the chance to have people wander past in a few years and say Gee, I wonder what happened to them in the fleeting seconds they can remember the name? Why does our society give so much cred to people who are famous?

Someday, they’ll be nobody again. Just like me.

A Looney Beep Beep

This is the fourth post in this week’s series, Grounded: Stories From the American Southwest. If this is your first visit to Grounded, click here to start the series. If you’d like to subscribe to my blog, subscription boxes are on the right-hand side of the page. If you like me enough to Like me on Facebook, simply click Like in the Facebook box on the right. As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

Dynamite. It’s gotta be around here somewhere, that big ACME stash I squirreled away in some hole or other. Trouble is, the immensity of this blasted canyon gets to me. I don’t know if I left the stuff down by the river someplace or closer to the rim. That confounded MTM, he zips around so fast I can’t possibly keep up with all my supplies for blowing him to smithereens. Him and his chirpy ‘beep-beep!’

Yesterday, I spotted him on the Grandview Trail, out by Horseshoe Mesa. Kicking up dust all over the place. From the looks of his patterns, he must be exploring the caves down there. Maybe he’ll fall into an old mine shaft. Old Grandview is riddled with ‘em. Ha! Wouldn’t that be a mighty fine way to get rid of him once and forever?

Speaking of mine shafts………….I know I left a stash of dynamite in one of them out by Horseshoe. Dang the rim of this creation. It’s too far away from everything. Fine for seeing, but not for making mayhem and wreaking destruction on the personification of my life’s annoyance.

There. He’s in a cave. A big one. He’ll be in there a while. Now’s my chance to slip down the trail without detection.

Bangbangcrashscrapescratchboomslidepowowowowowowow………

OwowowowowAnd I slid over the side of the trail. Hanging on. HANGING ON. One foot here. A toe hold there. And, I’m up. I always forget about the loose gravel up here. Feels like ice skating, only my legs maintain a blur of motion to keep from falling. No wonder I’m pooped by the time I catch up with my MTM prey.

Middle of the trail is better for me. Geology is different, more solid underfoot. I can make good time hereBLASTBLASTBLASTBLAST…….Beep-Beep!

Arrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh! There he goes, flying UP the trail, and I’m hanging from the side again. I don’t think that pathetic cactus is going to hold me much longer. Leaning. Leaning. Teariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggg.

SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSPLAT.

Peeling pieces of myself up from the canyon floor, I seem to be okay. Bruised, about a hundred cactus spines in my hands – YEEEEEE-OUCH – but I made it. And, lookey there. I’m right next to that mine shaft, the one with my big ole dynamite stash.

Rootrootrootrootroot.

Ah. Nothing feels better in the hands than an explosive device.

Now, where will I wait? Scanscanscanscanscan. That big rock, right next to the trail. An infallible perch for dropping lit sticks of dynamite on unsuspecting MTM. All I have to do is sit here………………blast it, the sun sure is hot. Feels like I’m baking to the top of the rock. I might stick if anyone tried to scrape me off. No shade…………getting sleepy……………must………….

Beep! Beep!

BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Staggerstaggerstagger. This – hiccup – has to be a dream. HAS TO BE. How did MTM get the – hiccup – dynamite away from me? WHERE did he – hiccup – come from?

Cue Looney Tunes music. I’m done over here.

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