Sunday, November 26, 2006

Singing away the Birthday Blues

In my previous posts, I had mentioned suffering from a mild case of the blues. Everything from a couple of recent personal experiences, work being really sucky, the approaching holidays, and growing yet another year older had given me the blues, indeed. (Especially the latter.)

I decided the only thing I wanted for my birthday was to rid myself of the blues. I wanted to revel in the celebration of life and sing the blues away. And I wanted to do all this in style. And where better to do this than on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, Home of the Blues? So Best Friend and I planned a trip of Blues singing, booze drinking, and rib eating on Beale Street, where the Blues were born.

Yesterday, November 25th, was my birthday. I decided to have a total Memphis experience so I put on the blue suede shoes that Best Friend’s grandma (a/k/a my “adoptive” grandma)gave me for my birthday and I boarded the plane. We had first class tickets (Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!) to Memphis. It was such a beautiful day. And as we ascended into the sky, we circled the city of Atlanta from a different angle than I had ever seen it. It was actually beautiful seeing it from this angle and I saw the street that I live on from a bird’s eye view for the first time.

I was so excited as I saw the familiar buildings, and the Pyramid along the Mississippi River busy with its barges and the I-40 Bridge that spans the river and crosses into Arkansas on the other side come into view. There was Memphis just below me! Moments later, we touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.

Since Sunday was going to be a no-fly day for airline employees and friends, we knew we would have to drive back home, so we rented a car, a PT Cruiser, and started out our day. First, we drove down Union Avenue to check out our hotel, which was not far from Sun Records, where musical greats such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and of course, Elvis Presley got their starts. We drove down the waterfront and took a look around there. The Mississippi is really a sight to behold, no matter how many times you’ve seen it! Next we drove up Beale to the point that is closed off to vehicles and caught our first glimpse of the fun awaiting us that night. I also saw the Gibson Guitars Factory. That place looked really cool and I hope to take a tour of it next trip. Then we drove down Elvis Presley Boulevard to the gates of Graceland.

I was really looking forward to seeing Elvis’ Graceland decorated for Christmas. I had heard that it was really spectacular, but I was actually a bit disappointed in it. Besides the nativity scene on the lawn and the blue lights that are lit each night and a few Christmas trees inside the mansion, it looked pretty much the same as I saw it in the springtime a few year ago. I sort of wanted half my money back! haha. But still, it was great to visit again and walk through the home of Elvis and later stand by his grave wearing my blue suede shoes. I just have one question…What was he thinking when he decorated the Jungle Room? Yikes!

After our Graceland tour and quick stop back by the hotel, we were eagerly on our way back to Beale Street. It was early evening when we stepped out on the street and already everything was starting to come to life. Music was radiating from every corner. We walked into W.C. Handy (a/k/a Father of the Blues) Park and listened to a live Blues band with a growing crowd of people gathering around. Watching the people, especially the older ones, dance was hilarious. Especially the old man in purple pants! An awesome discovery we made that brought a little bit of “home” to us was the Wet Willies Bar (just like the one in Savannah) where we love to try the different flavors of daiquiris they have. After walking in most of the shops and sampling an earful of music, we were both so hungry that we could eat a whole pig…and just about did at the Blues City Café. Words can’t explain the craving I had developed for some good BBQ ribs and I certainly got them there! Yummmm! Best Friend and I both are dainty eaters, but we lost all lady-like qualities about us as we scarfed those bones clean. Our faces were covered in BBQ sauce and we didn’t care. We also had some really good seafood gumbo and crab au gratin. Even the catfish, which is also a famous Memphis dish, looked tasty and I don’t even eat catfish. We were so stuffed when we left the restaurant that we practically had to roll down the rest of Beale.

Night had set in and things were really hopping. It was hard to decide where we wanted to go first, but we decided on Club 152 to hear “Elvis” perform. At first, I thought it was going to be cheesy and was only going in there for fun. But let me tell you, this guy, Radford Ellis was awesome! I was immediately impressed by just how much he sounded like Elvis. As I sat there singing along to the familiar tunes and was wondering how come all the Elvis impersonators try to be and dress like fat Elvis instead of young, gorgeous and super hot Elvis, he began to share some of his stories with us. This man was not merely an impersonator, he was a true performer. He had played with Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, and Ricky Nelson. In fact, if he had not come down with the flu, he would have been on the plane with Ricky Nelson and the rest of the band when it crashed. He was on the bus with Conway Twitty when he passed away. Not only that, but this man actually knew and was friends with Elvis Presley! He worked with Elvis’ horses at Graceland and the two of them became friends over the years. He even wears a ring that Elvis gave him. He also told us that he was the third person on the scene when Elvis was found dead in his bathroom at Graceland. So I was enjoying the songs and stories and ignoring the guy who was hitting on me and trying to take Best Friend’s chair next to me every time she went to the restroom, when our Elvis performer came over to chat with us. He asked Best Friend and me if we were still having fun and why we decided to come to Memphis. Best Friend told him that it was my birthday. I shot her an I’m-gonna-kill-you glance and knew I was in for it. I knew he was going to pull me up on stage and sing to me and that I would be so embarrassed. And he did pull me up on stage and have the whole bar wish me a happy birthday. Then he sang a special song to me that he had picked out just for me. It was “The Devil in Disguise”! Just what was he trying to say about me?!? What makes it worse is that I think he pegged me pretty well. haha.

We stayed for the rest of the show and then we headed over to B.B. King’s Blues Club. The lead singer of the performing band at B.B.’s was a lady with a voice that won’t quit! She was incredible! She was singing more traditional Blues style when we first walked in but she later moved into some 70s hits like “Lady Marmalade” and “I Will Survive” and she did all this without taking a breath! In fact, the whole time we were there, she took only one break! I would have loved to have stayed longer, but we were running out of time and had long run out of money, so after one more walk down Beale, we headed back the hotel to rest up for the drive back today. As I walked down the street, feeling happier than I did when I arrived, I knew that my Bluesy Birthday Bash had done the trick and I was cured (at least temporarily) of the blues. The song, “Walking in Memphis” played through my head and I did indeed feel like I was “walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale”.

We rose bright and early this morning for a ride by the river before heading back to Atlanta. After a quick stop in Tupelo, Mississippi so that Best Friend could see the birthplace of Elvis, we continued through the rest of the boring drive into and through Alabama. I was extremely happy to see Birmingham as I knew I had only about 2 more hours left. Unfortunately, the construction and traffic slowed us down but we still got the rental car back to the Atlanta airport with one minute to spare on our rental agreement. We know how to do things right! ;)

And I’m still smiling even though it’s back to work tomorrow. The blues are gone. Mission accomplished.

Me with a ticket to Graceland in hand.

Best Friend at the famous gates of Graceland.

Best Friend had the blues when she ran out of drinks.

Statue of W.C. Handy, Father of the Blues, in his namesake park.

Beale Street.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Been there, Done that

Anyone that has ever read this blog more than once knows that I love to travel. I love to visit new places. I love to return to my favorite places and try new things. I love meeting new people. I guess you could say that I love everything about traveling (except the expenses!)

With the exceptions of Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda, all of my traveling has been within the boundaries of the United States. And though I still haven’t crossed all 50 of the states off my Places Visited List, I have at least been in every region of the U.S. I know the farthest both North and West I have ever been is Cape Flattery, Washington. The farthest East I have been within the States is Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (but Bermuda is the easternmost.) And the farthest South I have been within the U.S. is Key West, Florida, a mere 90 miles to Cuba (but the southernmost point I have reached is the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico). I never really thought about just how much of my country I have seen until I was driving home tonight listening to the radio and found myself singing along with the Steve Miller Band…

I went from Phoenix, Arizona All the way to Tacoma
Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.
Northern California where the girls are warm
So I could be with my sweet baby, yeah …

And then it hit me! I really have been to all those places! That’s when I began to remember all the places I have been and all the places I hope to go.

I still have more of my own country to see (and see again), but I feel accomplished on having seen at least as much as I have already. Now it’s time to start tapping into other parts of this great, wide world. After I complete my Spring 2007 trip to the Caribbean, I hope to get serious about planning my trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu.

Keep on a rock'n me baby
Keep on a rock'n me baby…

Now I can’t get the freakin’ song out of my head! And the worst part of it is that this will probably be song I hum as I climb my way up the Andes along the path of the ancients.

I really should listen to cooler music. ;)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Because I'm bored...

It occurred to me that hardly anyone that reads this blog has ever seen me without a hat (or hiking gear, for that matter)! So I played around with my camera taking some self portraits. And sooo here I am...the Outdoorsy Girl indoors!

Yeah, mostly I'm just bored right now. It's been raining for the past 24 hours. And I have nothing much to say. :)

Man, I do look bored!

Monday, November 13, 2006


It was one of those blah weekends. I had plans to hike with my buddy Super Villain on Saturday. We had decided to hike the Panther Creek Trail because it’s got a couple of fun challenges and it’s very scenic. Panther Creek Falls is one of the nicest waterfalls in the area and I was excited about taking on these 7 miles again. The weather looked a little blah that morning and I felt a little blah as I got ready. Super Villain called me to let me know that he was running late. And when he arrived with my McDonald’s breakfast they had given me the wrong thing! Stupid McDonald’s! But I ate it anyway because I was hungry. (Side note: I have been feeling hungry a lot lately. I think I get hungrier when I am feeling blah.)

I started to come out of my blah mood as Super Villain and I drove along sharing some good laughs and catching up on the latest news. In fact, when we pulled up to the Panther Creek Trailhead I was completely unblahtalized. Then I noticed the bright rope blocking off the trail! What!? You’ve got to be kidding me! Blah!

So I continued to drive us past Tallulah Gorge and up to Black Rock Mountain., one of the only 5 or so peaks in Georgia that I can call by proper name. Since we got a later start than anticipated, we picked the short, but very steep Tennessee Rock Trail that leads 2.2 miles up to the summit of Black Rock Mountain. I had hiked this trail before and remembered it to be difficult…but of course I was fatter then, so I figured it would be a piece of cake this time. It was
quite a workout, but I managed to pull it off with stopping only once. But I couldn’t believe I was so winded when I reached the top, with this being only 2.2 miles! Blah! I was hoping that the clouds threatening to drench us with rain would break just long enough to take in the good view from the summit. Usually, there is a nice view of the Wolffork Valley, but we got this view instead…Blah!

And since I have been trying to reawaken my creative poetic side lately, I decided to give it a try and composed these lines…

Gloomy is the weather
Gloomy is the mood
Nothing more I’d rather do
Than stuff myself with food

Instead I climbed this mountain top
To see what I could see
But all I could see when I reached the top
Was that I could not see

So I climbed back down
And drove into town
And there it was that I ended my day
With some greasy food from Chic-fil-a

Pretty awesome, no? Yeah, it sucks. HAHAHA!

In all honesty, it was a good weekend. It wasn’t all blah. The hike was fun. I spent time with my family as we went out for my dad’s birthday. I met Best Friend for lunch in Atlanta yesterday, did a little shopping, and then we hung out at a friend’s house. It is not the weekend that is blah. It is ME!

That’s right…the cheery Outdoorsy Girl has the blues. There is no big problem that I am battling. There’s no one factor triggering this bluish hue to color my life. It’s just a combination of silly things that will pass such as…I can’t even turn on the radio without hearing Christmas tunes…already! I will not
continue to be this Grinchy as I love Christmas very much, but I’m just not ready for it yet. Can't we eat least get through Thanksgiving before reminding me that I have tons of gifts to buy??? And now that the bright leaves have fallen and left everything brown and gray, I am reminded that winter is quickly on its way. On the bright side, I will only mope around until we have the first snowfall—that’s right—I think that we are going to get some snow here in Georgia this year because we’ve been cheated for two years straight now! But worst of all, in less than 2 weeks, I will be another year older. Yuck. Blah. Sigh. This fact does truly suck, but is also a temporary attitude. I won’t have the birthday blues for long because I have got something awesome planned that will chase away the blues—in style! ;)

Thursday, November 09, 2006


We all have them somewhere on our bodies. They are evidence of clumsy mistakes or irresponsible actions. Some serve as a reminder of surgical triumph. Some serve as a reminder of a very bad day.

They sprawl across your skin in discolored patches or irregular shapes. They are flaws upon your skin. Honestly, they are none too pretty.

But, though they never completely disappear, they do tend to fade away with time. One day, even the angriest of scars upon your skin will become unnoticed. Yes, it is still visible, but has now become such a part of you that you no longer remember its existence…until someone asks you,
“Hey, how’d you get that scar? What happened to ya?”

These, of course, are physical scars of which I speak. There are other kinds, too--emotional scars. Even the hardest of hearts, have been scarred by some type of disappointment or loss.

Like physical scars, these will also heal and fade over time. And just like the physical type, they will become nearly forgotten by us…until someone asks,
“Hey, why don’t you trust anyone? Why are you so cold? Why are you so afraid? What happened to ya?”

Here upon my knees are scars resulting from an adventure this past summer. On June 17, 2006, I reached high above my head and attempted to pull myself up a slick rock wall into the mouth a slot canyon in southern Utah. I was too short to reach the rock grip that most people
around me had reached with no problem. With a little encouragement, and a push and pull from friends, I was clinging to the slick rock wall (that happens to be called slick rock for a reason) and pulling myself up into the mouth of the narrow, twisty canyon. I felt my right foot slip and my right knee scraped hard into the rock. In a state of panic, I tried to avoid the fall and awkwardly pressed my body into the rock as closely as I could, gripping and grasping onto whatever I could find. My left knee banged rather firmly into the rock. I felt my body slip a little more before regaining balance enough to pull myself completely up the wall. I felt the flesh on my knees tear open and burn as blood started to trickle down my lower legs. I felt as if I had slid down a giant roll of dirty, hot sandpaper. I am pretty sure that I winced in pain as I stood atop the high ledge and, most likely, a verse of profanity flowed from my lips.

Then I turned my back to the wall I had climbed and entered the canyon. I was so amazed at the beautiful swirling lines along the glowing red rock and the tight, twisting walls of this canyon that I forgot about my knees’ injuries. For many years, I had dreamed of climbing around a colorful slot canyon and photographing rays of sunlight and they pressed their way to the bottom of the dark maze before me. All I could think of was, wow, I’m really here!

As my wounds began to heal, I complained occasionally about my tight, sore skin. And I complained a lot as I again ripped open my fresh wounds while hiking the Half Dome Trail in Yosemite the following weekend. Today, as I look at my knees, I see two small discolorations that now resemble bruises. They are fading away nicely and eventually I won’t even remember them.

Last week, I wore a skirt that exposed my knees and a friend of mine asked me if I had bruised my knees. “No,” I replied brightly, “That’s my battle wound from the slot canyon…” And I trailed off into my tale of colorful walls and twisted mazes with a huge smile upon my face.

Those scars upon my knees are reminders that I enjoy my life to the fullest and answer the adventures that call my name. I am reminded that, even though I can become afraid, I do not allow fear to hold me in its grip. I am reminded that I make my own dreams come true. I am reminded that I have had wonderful experiences and will likely experience many more wonders in my lifetime.

Now, if only viewing emotional scars in this manner could be so easy. Right now, I am reminded that people aren’t always honest, people aren’t so kind, and with every gain there results an even bigger loss. But I am working on changing this outlook.

Through my scarred view, I can see enough to realize that my heart’s adventures are equivalent to my life’s adventures in bravery, risk, and wonder. Surely this must lead to good things eventually. I think that I will again find honesty, kindness, and a gain that will convince me that all these scars were worth it.

And I believe I will again walk among the fields of gold.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Wise Words of Life

I used to post poems that I have written on this blog. A few of them were about life in general, but most of them about amazing things that I have encountered while traveling. I was thinking about how I should write a few lines about something I saw or did this summer. God knows, I certainly had plenty of inspiration to write and never stop and I’m sure that no words I could have ever applied to paper would have done justice to places I experienced over those two months.

But I’m not feeling very inspired right now even with looking at my photos from this summer. I require inspiration to write anything at all, so…nothing new will be written today.

I did, however, search my files for old poems I had not yet shared. As I read through some of them, I found some that I had not posted on the blog. Rereading the words I had written took me back in time to the places or people I had written about. Not only could I feel those same emotions again, but I realized that impressions that are strong enough to inspire you to immortalize these feelings or impressions in a poem are your truest and most accurate insight of the subject.

For example, I had written a poem about Yosemite, California after my first visit there nearly six years ago. I returned there again this year and as I reread the words of my Yosemite poem, I found that I had captured exactly what Yosemite is to me in words. The words were so accurate that I felt there was nothing I could change in the poem to express it any clearer. I also have found this to be true with people.

I had this on and off again relationship with a certain man* for about 3 years. We were friends who happened to like one another on a slightly more-than-friendly level but there was always some kind of unavailability issue with us. At first, it was because we lived too far apart. Then he moved closer. Then it was that he was too busy. But then he took the time out for us to spend together. It was never anything serious until a couple of events took place last winter. These events revealed a great deal about what kind of person this man (who was supposedly my friend, above all else) was. What angered me so much was how this guy, in the end, truly believed that he had me “in his grips” and had left me devastated. He was surprised when I corrected him and let him know that though he was someone I thought was special to me, that there would be no crying myself to sleep at night over him now that I really knew him. I also told him that I didn’t want to talk to him again.

Then in a fury of curse words and bitter, angry tears, I wrote these words down…

I do not love you
I never have; I never will
I know you must think that
You made my whole world stand still

But my world is still spinning
Life did not cease for this endeavor
And your delusion is the reason
All ties I must sever

You must not think I shed a tear
Or that you made my heart swoon
That is make-believe in your head
And you did not hang the moon

I thought fondly of the man I thought that you were
And now I can see that he was not real
Dreams of might-have-been are lost in a blur
Because I do not love you and I know I never will

There’s no waiting around for you
Now that I see clearly who you are
No use entertaining the notion
Or wishing for love upon a star

You are no knight in shining armor
You do not fit the part
And the only armor around here
I’ve built around my heart

I never called him again. But he did call me. I was very cold at first, but this guy was persistent with apologies and lame excuses and leaned strongly on our “friendship” as a way to worm himself back into my life. I am naïve and forgiving and believe in second chances, so we began another round of “us.” This time was different (or so it appeared) and we grew closer than ever before. We talked nearly daily and shared many things about our lives. Those 6 months were awesome. It was such a wonderful world…and then he slipped back into his old ways of not quite being what he portrayed himself to be and then he pulled the disappearing act again.

When I read the above poem, I had to chuckle to myself as the realization struck that those words still ring truer than ever before, even after closing a second chapter in our lives. If only I had reread it before I opened that second chapter.

It seems the story never changes. Therefore, after I put into writing my latest encounter (a/k/a disaster), I will be sure to keep it in my active files for quick access and future reference, just in case this one decides to make a comeback, too.
*Note to that “certain man”: I have no idea if you still read my blog, but if you do, you know who you are. Life is still going on without you, just so you know. I wouldn’t want you to worry that the sun no longer shines on me. Also, I have to admit that your “disappearing act” was pretty awesome this time. I didn’t see it coming at all, Houdini! Good job! Now, if you will kindly stay in hiding, I’d appreciate it.

PS. If your phone doesn’t ring, then you’ll know that’s me.