The Return of the Whiteway Girls

Long ago when I was a child I used to play with the other girls on Whiteway Drive, where I lived.  When we got together, big plans ensued, because someone would  always  have an inspiration. Why don’t we all get our Barbie stuff and play on Jane’s patio? Why don’t we get umbrellas and pretend we’re on The Avengers? Why don’t we play Miss America, or gin rummy? Why don’t we play hide and seek after dark? Often my younger sister Ellen hoped  to be included in our pursuits but as I recall, in my rarified spot as the oldest sister, I forbade her from coming any closer than three sidewalk squares of any spot occupied by my friends or myself.  In time we all grew up. Some of us lost touch. Three of us moved away.

In all, five of us stayed in touch in various combinations, but we were never together at the same time. We were adults now and life was happening to us: careers, relationships, children. Also children, children, and children. In the last few years I found myself saying what fun it would be to rent a house somewhere and have us all come. No kids. No spouses, no responsibilities.

I don’t want to admit  that it took one of us becoming  gravely  ill to force us out of just SAYING  we should get together to YES. WE WILL GET TOGETHER. But it’s true. This spring, after our friend Jane  was well on the way to recovery, we began to plan in earnest. Texts and emails flew back and forth. Our eyes burned from scrolling through VRBO listings. But we did choose a place: Asheville, North Carolina, and booked the dates.

Five of us were to attend: Mary, Jane, Mary Beth – that’s me, Gayle, and Ellen. Mary and Jane are sisters. Ellen and I are sisters. On the appointed day I flew into Greensboro and was met by my trusty companion, Ellen. Luckily for me, Ellen nursed no grudge about having NEVER been included in our games as a child- oh, come on, she had kids her own age to play with- but she shared a little trepidation about this inaugural trip. Her concern was that she had never spent much time with Mary while growing up, because Mary is  like, even two more years older than I am. She hoped they would hit it off. I too had a valid concern. What if these girls were  drinkers of CHEAP WINE??? That would be INTOLERABLE!girls trip 2015-59

Despite these small worries, we made it to Asheville in good spirits, and as it happened, with several bottles of wine, chosen by moi, to share. Jane and Mary had  arrived first, and no doubt emboldened by imbibing some of their own wine, had boldly chosen the main bedroom for themselves. Was that OK with us, they asked. Certainly, the other three of us replied. We had carefully chosen a house with three private bedrooms and three private baths. There would be no turf wars here!girls trip 2015-2

girls trip 2015-3After deciding upon our sleeping arrangements we ventured down our mountain into downtown Asheville. Parking took awhile because each one of us had her own ideas about how and where to park, but eventually we were prowling the downtown streets with the efficiency of five disinterested cats. We approached restaurant after restaurant, read their menus and at least one of us would say, “Let’s keep walking.” “Let’s go here,” I suggested finally, winning the prize for having the first inspiration of the evening. We ducked into Zambra, which was reputed to have good tapas and drinks.

While waiting for a table, we gathered at the “confessional”. Enough said.girls trip 2015-82We each picked something to drink, I don’t recall what, and had a merry time until we were escorted to our lovely romantic table in the courtyard. girls trip 2015-87Dinner was a series of small plates. Everyone seemed satisfied  with their choices. We were a perfectly happy group of old ladies. Our trip was off to a capital start.

The next day we attended the The Big Crafty Fair, followed by dinner at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

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They had me at AC!

girls trip 2015-85Or maybe not, because at some point we stopped in at the Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. Surveying the many nooks and crannies of the store I  could not help but wish my companions would indulge me in just one more game of hide and seek.

You know you could hide behind those chairs. And beyond them, a bookcase to the second floor!

You know you could hide behind those chairs. And beyond them, a bookcase to the second floor!

Oh well. I amused myself by taking pictures of my companions for a fictional dossier. I had to make use of all the scoop I’d had on these girls all these years!

Fact: They had more Barbie stuff than I did.

Fact: They had more Barbie stuff than I did. And they still wear matching outfits.

Fact: Her Mother used to buy Coke AND Koolaid! Lucky duck!

Fact: Her Mother used to buy Coke AND Koolaid! Lucky duck!

And our bill came in a Dr. Seuss book!

And our bill came in a Dr. Seuss book!

Monday we hit the River Arts District, where a couple of us found things we just had to have.

These ladies wanted to go home with Ellen.

These ladies wanted to go home with Ellen.

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Should we tell this man to use the inside facilities?

Should we tell this man to use the inside facilities?

We agreed.

We agreed.

This I found beautiful, but it was not for sale.

This I found beautiful, but it was not for sale.

The dossier continues. Fact: This little lady and her friend Sandra ate All the candy I had planned to serve at my slumber party, and had NO REMORSE!

The dossier continues. Fact: This little lady and her friend Sandra ate All the candy I had planned to serve at my slumber party, and had NO REMORSE!

Fact: I never even TOLD the other ladies that Ellen hung her footies to dry on the light fixture. That's loyalty.

Fact: I never even TOLD the other ladies that Ellen hung her footies to dry on the light fixture. That’s loyalty.

I’m thinking we stayed home that night and enjoyed some delicious vegetables from Ellen’s garden. girls trip 2015-51What was our dinner conversation? It was about how powerful we all are! We added up the combined years of our marriages, and of our motherhood. I can’t remember the numbers, but they were large! We marveled at how once upon a time we made pretend Barbie families, but now our lives were  completely real. Each one of us had buried a parent, tended sick family members, and faced personal disappointments. But dang it, here we were watching the sun set over the mountains, happy to be supporting one another.girls trip 2015-92girls trip 2015-57

Our feelings of power led to a rollicking game of “Catch Phrase” and I confess I have no pictures of that. Early Tuesday Gayle had to leave us because her mom was being released from the hospital. We were sad to see her go, but glad that she, as  the main caretaker of her elderly mother, had been able to join us at all. We knew how lucky we were.

After she left, Ellen tried to cheer us all up by suggesting we work a  “very easy” 250 piece  puzzle. Like the Little Red Hen, she started on it by herself and soon had it worked mostly all wrong. She thought maybe some puzzle pieces were missing, or that two puzzles were mixed up in the same box, but no..she had just done it wrong. It seemed that all the puzzle pieces were the same size and the same shape. Each piece held a word or a definition, and the two had to match correctly. Let me tell you, even the librarian among us did not know most of these vocabulary words. Eventually we all joined in the puzzle, each in our own way denouncing the mean spirited folks who could have invented such a deceptive device.

After a time we left the puzzle and went into town for some shopping and a Mediterranean lunch.girls trip 2015-89

But when we returned, there was the puzzle, mocking us silently. Thankfully Mary took the lead, gently insisting that Ellen move connected sections one piece at a time instead of brazenly shoving them across the table. I think the two of them made a good connection indeed.

Fact: I wouldn't have had the patience for this in 1968.

Fact: I wouldn’t have had the patience for this in 1968.

Finally, the thing was complete, and we could hit our normal old lady bedtimes with a sense of accomplishment. But first, a little more relaxing on the porch.girls trip 2015-96 The next morning we parted ways: Mary and Jane to Charlotte, Ellen and I to Winston Salem, where I would spend the night before returning  to Memphis.girls trip 2015-67Ellen’s husband had a lovely al fresco dinner waiting for us, and as we ate we reviewed the success of the first getaway of the Whiteway girls. We dreamed it, and we did it. All the coming year no matter what happens, we will savor our new memories. Any thoughts on where we should go next year?

A sad goodbye at the airport.

A sad goodbye at the airport.

Bon Voyage!

Dear 2013,

A  few nights ago I  navigated myself to your outer deck and from there leaped onto another vessel named 2014. I  hope she will be as hardy and productive as you were when I was with you. Having only been aboard for four days, I haven’t exactly gotten my bearings. I find myself looking out portholes, back to where I see your sturdy form  chugging away in the opposite direction, growing smaller in my vision with each passing day. I know it’s too late to turn back now.

Things don’t seem the same without you. It’s not that I’m pessimistic  about my trip aboard the 2014, but thus far we have no shared history. The sudden change has caused me to reflect on our time together, on moments of whimsy, creativity, tedium, frustration and exhilaration we shared. From my vantage point I would say we had a successful voyage together. To thank you for your loyal service I am sending you some remembrances to look over when you have the inclination. Here they are, in no particular order:

Istanbul:

A feast for the eyes and the spirit.

A feast for the eyes and the spirit.

The mild winter of 2013:
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A return to the meditative practice of knitting:

Luscious color ways.

Luscious color ways.

Embracing my ongoing remedial skill level in painting:
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Gardening – Some things came up; others didn’t.DSC_0273

Preserving – The famed laboratory kitchen. “Figging”, by the way, means something other than picking figs in the back yard. It has to do with punishing one’s female slaves. Who knew?DSC_0721

Writing – NaNoWriMo. I never dreamed you would navigate me through this, 2013. I would recommend the experience to anyone. And of course it is not over. So far I have had three people read my little book. Hopefully 2014 will bring more readers!

Daily Happiness:
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The Condo – I will be posting more about this but in June of 2013 we were finally able to begin to use it.DSC_0708

Family: 2013 helped me see my children wherever I could: San Francisco, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, and in my own home.

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Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

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Under the pergola

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In St. Louis, opening up “Breaking Bad” Christmas presents.

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In an enthusiastically decorated German restaurant in Manhattan, drinking mulled wine.

At the Space Needle

At the Space Needle

In St. Louis

In St. Louis

Not So Good Ideas: Of course no voyage is without some pratfalls, like flooding your bedroom and having to pull up the whole floor,IMG_2162IMG_2419Or  an imaginary ice storm which uprooted two cypress trees and knocked over my fence.IMG_2422I’m very grateful that the very nice fence man who came  the next day was not also imaginary.

2013 darling,  I could go on and on, but I just can’t include everything. You were a good companion for me; healthy but sassy, unpredictable but rarely actually harmful, full of surprises but also on a good path.We made some precious memories.  I’ll miss you, but it’s always good to leave when you are still a little reluctant to do so. Wish me luck with my voyage on the 2014; she has some large shoes to fill. Speaking of shoes, I’ve got to go now. It’s time to find my sea legs on the good ole 2014.

Happy Sailing!

Ineffability and Responsibility, or To Hell and Back with My Sister

A Note from the Magpie:

Dear Readers,

You are about to be treated to the Mindful Magpie’s very first guest post, penned by none other than Ellen, my marvelously talented sister. Those who have not met her on this blog might like to visit this previous post and this one  , oh, and also this one to familiarize themselves with her coolness, or just jump right in! I’ll get out of the way now before she accuses me of being bossy.

I was rocking out to the radio as I pulled up to the little ticket dispenser at the Greensboro International Airport. Yes, you guessed it! I was on my way to visit my sister in Memphis, my hometown. The dispenser buzzed and stuck out its tongue at me. Still impressing all who might be listening with my vocal talent, I blithely yanked on the tongue to dislodge the long term parking ticket from its jaws. Let the games begin! I pulled forward into the lot without rolling up my window, so when I placed the little ticket on my dashboard as I always do, I saw it flutter gracefully out of my line of sight. No bother. I would place the little runaway in its proper spot before moving onto the terminal. Luck, I thought, was surely with me today. No sooner than I had whipped Zula, my little VW Jetta, into a strategic parking spot than the shuttle magically appeared right behind me. I’ll find that pesky parking ticket on the way home, I told myself. Meanwhile, adventure awaited me in the form of my daughter’s purple roll-on suitcase and the shuttle with its patiently purring engine. With no regrets, I nimbly hopped onto the shuttle and into my wild rumpus.

On my last night in Memphis with my sister I penned a list of activities which had filled our all-too-short time together. Yes, the list was longish (As my sister has pointed out previously, I am methodical). Yes, I really did engage in all the activities happily and willingly (As my sister has pointed out previously, I am motivated). Yes, we had used our time wisely (As my sister has pointed out previously, I am organized). Yes, yes, yes; a thousand times yes! This list, which has been displayed in my sister’s earlier post, is simply a litany of activities. It can in no way encompass what we did together in Memphis. What I achieved was the goal of spending as much time with my sister as humanly possible in the short amount of time we had together. Mini-goals included, but were not limited to, laughing uproariously and in a most unladylike manner (sorry, Mother!) on any and all pretexts; discussing issues large and small in no particular order or chronological sequence; eating some foods which either aren’t available at home or which no one else at my house likes but me-or both; and reading and discussing what we’ve read.

Here’s where ineffability comes into play. The time I spend with Mary Beth is akin to how a sunflower tracks the sun as it moves through the sky. It is how Monarch butterflies journey down to Mexico and back each year. It is how the Earth orbits the sun, and the Moon orbits the Earth in its turn. They do it because they must. And I spend time with my sister because I must. Words will not suffice to make my meaning clear, but I will try (As my sister has pointed out previously, I am determined). I have had Mary Beth in my life as long as I can remember. We share the same sense of humor and the same love of reading and other intellectual pursuits. I rarely have to explain myself to her, and I never have to pretend to act or feel any certain way to gain her approval. I extend her this same leeway.  Told ya words wouldn’t really get the job done. (As my sister has pointed out previously, I am task-oriented).

Responsibility touched down on my shoulders the minute I re-entered that long term parking lot after getting off the plane from Memphis via Atlanta.  Remember that little parking ticket which had fluttered down off the dashboard in the breeze from my open car window? Turns out it is awfully hard to leave the long term parking lot without it. Having never misplaced one before, I was unaware of this fact. I dumped the purple roll-on in the back seat and commenced to search for the little ticket. I looked high and low, but that little ticket just did not want to be found. No bother. I proceeded to the exit gate. There I learned for the first time what  hubbub could ensue when the little ticket went AWOL. No, the man could not just take my word for how long Zula had been parked in the lot. No, I did not have my boarding pass from the outbound trip. No, I did not have my itinerary (but you can be sure I will next time! As my sister has pointed out previously, I am a quick learner). Nothing for it but to trudge back to the terminal in the hopes that the desk employees could find some non-incriminating information for me. That bumpy landing in Greensboro had played havoc with other flights, so I had a long wait for my turn at the desk. Papers clutched firmly in my hand, I approached the exit booth for a second time. The fat raindrops dimpling Zula’s black hood convinced the little man that, as I had averred from the beginning, I did not park inside the deck but rather in the vast parking lot surrounding the exclusive parking deck.

When I was a young adult, Mary Beth tried upon many an occasion to share her worldly wisdom with me, often in an unsolicited manner. Unappreciative, I demanded that she quit telling me what to do. Mainly she has complied with this request.  I explained to my friends that Mary Beth could call me in the middle of the night, to tell me to do something, and I would do it. Following her lead had been ingrained behavior, even if I did protest every now and then. Some things never change. If Mary Beth said, “Come on, Ellen. We’re going to hell,” I would get my knitting, my book, and my big girl drink and jump into the car. After all, if that’s where Mary Beth is headed, then I want to go there too.* Uh, we did get round trip tickets, right?

*Disclaimer: The author of the post is in no way implying that her sister is going to hell in a hand basket or in any other  type of conveyance. Nor should any reader of this post so infer.

She Who Restores Me To Myself

Magpies, in their love of shininess, have an especial need to experience scintillating moments with glittery people. By glittery I do not mean shallow, brittle, self absorbed, or vain. I am talking about an honest  shine that comes from the inside all the way out, an  unconditional shine that radiates warmth over others, a brightly colored shine that pulsates with willingness to pursue novel endeavors. I am of course describing my sister Ellen.

I promised in my last post to write about our latest adventures. But first a little background. Last summer I wrote  a post about my sister in which I referred to her as L.G., or Little General. Ellen did not appreciate that appellation, so I have withdrawn that name from our lexicon. Last week, in a blaze of dervish like activity prior to boarding a plane, I referred to my sister as a hurricane, knowing that should she read the post I would be in big trouble, my kind intentions notwithstanding.

I am  now on record to say that Ellen gets things done, but she is NOT a general. She is a force of nature, but she is NOT a hurricane. What then, can I call her?  She is a person of great intellect, wit, and charm. Her droll humor and clever imagination cannot be matched. Her no nonsense work ethic and organizational skills are an inspiration to others.   Her zest for life is unparalleled, her enjoyment of it a sight to behold. Her authenticity is a beacon to my soul. AND she loves me!

I had not seen my sister since December 2012, when I spent one night with her en route to a friend’s cabin. Little did we know that six long months would pass before we could see one another again. Somehow, with our various travel and work schedules along with  family commitments, the weeks elapsed with no firm visiting plans.

We don’t talk on the phone much. We write letters by hand, on paper, to one another, and have for years. But this past semester many weeks separated our letters. I was beginning to feel like an American colonist awaiting word from the continent.  Had my letter been lost at sea, dashed on a rocky promontory after a shipwreck? Would I hear that she and her family had perished in a smallpox epidemic? Finally my impatience got the better of me. I left her the following cryptic voice mail,”The jig is up!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, got a response, and at last we were able to plan for her to come see me in my town. She flew in on a Friday night just as my husband was flying out on a business trip, making the timing just right for an All Girls’ Extravaganza. I picked up the  Hurric. picked her up at the airport and took her straight to my new midtown condo to spend the night.  She admired the condo, and we both exclaimed over the sweet note my husband had left for us.DSC_0744  Then she unpacked a few of her things.  As I watched her familiar movements and listened to her long accustomed  voice, I had this exact thought: I am restored to myself.

Our plan for the week was to have no plan. That way our plans couldn’t possibly go wrong. That evening, we wanted to eat dinner someplace where we could hear ourselves talk. I recommended a place where we chose a secluded table. No sooner had we sat down  than a large group of ladies, some under the influence of more than two martinis with more in the offing, began screaming raucously, in a way that truly rattles the eardrums.IMG_2071

What do you suppose Ellen did? She approached those ladies, put her arm around one, leaned in and had a little ole talk with them. And they lowered the volume! When we left the restaurant a waitress followed us out to thank her for helping with  the situation!!! How do you describe someone like this?

I told you she's a force of nature!

I told you she’s a force of nature!

The next day Ellen accompanied me to a Knit In Public Day at the zoo. She joined right in with these knitters, sharing knitting anecdotes from her own experiences.. And yes, she had brought her own knitting, self sufficient as always.  She patiently allowed me to show her off to these folks who may never see her again,with nary a complaint  about the heat or crowds. What would you call someone like that?DSC_0711

After knitting we stopped in a consignment store  to look for midcentury modern furniture pieces for my largely unfurnished condo. She said she did not know what midcentury modern was, but she found  me two tables, and rearranged my car so that they would both fit.IMG_2060 But that is not all! She went all the way back down to the condo with me and helped me schlep them up there in grocery carts! Impressive, right?

And wait! There's more! She moves furniture!

And wait! There’s more! She moves furniture!

On Sunday Ellen gamely accompanied me to the Book Club Brunch where she knew barely a soul.  I had actually not read the book to be discussed but by chance she had and was able to make salient comments while I nodded sagely. Though we were at a lovely function in a lovely home, Ellen murmured not  when I announced we must be moving on to the theater to see Death Trap. This allowed me to use my last two remaining season tickets and  also take advantage of the special that day for extending my subscription. All because of Ellen.

On Sunday night we dropped in to Tug’s at Mud Island to be waited upon by my son. While enjoying our meal there we proofread a paper my son was  writing for a summer school class. I am fairly sure we were the only two customers there discussing poetry. After dinner we took a leisurely stroll by the banks of the Mississippi River, remarking on the environs and how many pieces of driftwood resembled dinosaurs.DSC_0726 Thus ended another cultural evening.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

DSC_0741Ellen did not flinch the next evening when it was time for Iyengar Yoga. Her graduate school schedule had  prevented her from going to her own class all winter, but she knew enough to know not to push herself. She has “subbed” in my class before, so many members were of course glad to see her. After yoga we spent some quality time outside on my pergola ( which her husband was instrumental in building)  before eating a lovely dinner of grilled vegetables and chicken. Prepared by Ellen.

Post yoga quality time.

Post yoga quality time.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Tuesday was my hair day but we made it Ellen’s hair day too. I told her I liked her hair better red than blonde highlighted, so she obligingly had it redone. I watched to see how the stylist blew it dry so I could show her later. We were too hungry to take pictures, so just believe me that we were two groovy red haired old ladies when we left that shop.

And Wednesday. By Wednesday I had to face a deadline – Mary Hannah’s portrait. For months I had been working on the portrait my niece  had asked me to paint. I had decided that I would have it finished as best I could by the time Ellen departed on Thursday so she could deliver it for me.  This meant that after helping me with some yardwork early in the day, Ellen would be stuck watching me paint.DSC_0751 Ellen had, however, bought some teeny tiny canvases, and tried her hand at them while I labored repeatedly  to get M. H.’s skin color to a reasonable tone. Or tint. Or something. Eventually, though her skin looked like combinations of calamine lotion and badly applied makeup, I could do no more. Ellen was suitably soothing and optimistic that the portrait would pass muster with her daughter.DSC_0758

One of Ellen's tiny canvases.

One of Ellen’s tiny canvases.

That night we again spent the night at the condo in order to be closer to the airport in the morning. We wanted to have a nice evening so I made us a reservation a place close by where I did not think there would be gaggles  of loud ladies. Ellen acquiesced when I suggested she change out of those crummy shorts, and together we walked in the blazing heat to the restaurant.  She changed into a skirt of mine that was too long, while  I was wearing a skirt I considered a little dowdy. As we walked I saw how easy it could be for the two of us to become peculiar old ladies together, going to the Early Bird Specials and matinees, careful to be home by dark.

It was a bittersweet evening. As I doodled on my side of the tablecloth, Ellen was compiling  a list of all we had done.

Now with red hair.

Now with red hair.

The list was long, but not nearly long enough. Oh, the things we would do if we had more time! Oh, how empty indeed would even the mundane events be without her! We decided once again that there was no help for it but to retire together in the same place, on the same property if possible. We’ll tell our husbands it’s the only way.IMG_2084

Ellen has gone home now. The portrait is delivered. I am trying to recalibrate myself after almost a week with this adorable creature who knows my thoughts, who finishes my sentences, who always finds something to celebrate. Now that you have read my post I must ask: what you would call my sister? How can she even be described? If you can think of anything – not L.G. or Hurricane of course- I’d be glad to know. For now, I’m just going to call her She Who Restores Me To Myself.DSC_0736

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s a Magpie!”

Special To Hot Springs N.C. Times: Rumors of a Magpie sighting in Hot Springs N.C. have now been verified by many sources including this writer. After rumors that a Magpie, driving with an unidentified woman in a black Volkswagen Jetta had been seen going up and down Road 209 on Sunday August 05, this writer went to the cabin  on August 06 where they were said to have lodged the previous evening.

The Magpie and her companion were seen to leave the premises early on August 06. This writer, observing at a  discreet distance, was able to definitively identify the Magpie. Through sheer persistence and keen journalistic skills this reporter now brings you an exclusive interview  with the Magpie herself , and her sister, widely renowned as The Little General,  or L. G. as she will be called in this report. The interview took place at an undisclosed location. The Magpie was attired in colorful sequined shoes with casual togs. Her rapport with the also casually dressed L.G. was easy, the conversation sparkling and urbane. The women wore no makeup, yet seemed unconcerned by this.

R: May I say how flattered we in Hot Springs are, Magpie, that a shininess lover such as yourself has chosen our town as your vacation spot?

M: Actually, Rod, our cabin was more closely connected to Luck, North Carolina, just on the other side of Trust, North Carolina. But we won’t split hairs.

R:   Magpie, can you tell us why you picked the Hot Springs area to visit?

M: Sure, Rod. My sister and I wanted a girls’ getaway that was not too far a driving distance from L.G.’s home, that afforded us with refreshing mountain views, opportunities for adventure, and no responsibilities whatsoever. I  searched on VRBO  because I felt a cabin would offer us what we needed for less than the cost of a hotel. We chose our current cabin because it was NOT a mobile home, where I found myself last year, and because it  had the right amount of space for us.  It didn’t hurt that the Appalachian Trail, with which I have long been infatuated, runs right through downtown Hot Springs.

R: And why L.G. as your companion?

M: Rod, you have clearly never traveled with L.G. If you had, you would know that no one ever spends time with L.G. without knowing they have been with an adventurous madcap woman who makes even the simplest things fun.  She could rub two sticks together and make a party out of it. Also we like to do the same things. Such as read.

L.G. Thanks for your kind words, Magpie. I would like to say that on my part I knew we  would have fun having a few days with no set schedule, and no written- in- stone. rigid  goals. In other words, with no testosterone in the vicinity.

L.G.’s car is also a female. Her name is Zula.

M:  Good point. L.G. Another important point is that L.G. would help me keep a low profile. Celebrities need their privacy too.

R: But you were noticed immediately after going up and down Road 209 so many times.

L.G.  Ahem. Things were not very clearly marked on that road,  we didn’t think.

R: Good enough. Could you talk about some of the highlights of your trip? For example, you were seen going up and down the Max Patch Bald Mountain numerous times on the 6th.

M: Yes, we wanted to hike the Max Patch Bald. We had a printout of directions. And although we got lost  the day before on our way to the cabin, could not figure out how to work the keypad to get in the cabin for some time, and we did need to use the ladies’ room, plus we couldn’t figure out the many remotes on the Direct TV and VCR, I still had complete confidence in L.G. to navigate us.

L.G. The TV and key pad directions were poorly written. And the signs on the Max Patch road were poorly marked.

R: You hiked which loop of the Max Patch Bald?

L.G. We’re not sure. We both looked at the map at the parking lot but when we got up there we both remembered the map differently. I would say we hiked a short part.

L.G. reading about invasive flora instead of reading the map.

The view on the way up.

At the top!

Authenticated Magpie photo.

R: A short part. Good. According to my notes you then drove around several other local roads, stopped, turned around and drove some of the same roads again.

L.G.: And your point is? I think we have said we were in a no testosterone zone, so no more questions about where we were when and where we thought we were going and what the signs said.

Hadn’t we already passed this?

And this?

And this?

M: Rod, the scenery was outstanding. And in my sister’s defense, things really were not well marked. All we had to do was get to the Hot Springs Spa by around 3:00 P.M., and we made it.

R: Yes. There is a man in town who waves at everyone who passes him on Main Street. He waved at your car fourteen times. But, the spa experience?

L.G.: It was the best money we’ve ever spent. A lady we call Precious, because she called us Precious, led us to our  hot mineral water  soak in a secluded little cabana along the Spring Creek. It was just what we needed after our rigorous car riding.

Here’s Precious!

View from the tub!

L.G. in the tub with the misters spraying.

M: Afterwards we walked past the ruins of former hotels on the same location up to the Spa for our deep tissue massage. That was just the massage I wanted. When I get a massage I want to know someone’s been working on me. Our two masseuses were very skilled and knowledgeable. I listened closely to my sister as she  discussed all her physical frailties with her masseuse. I had no physical frailties. After the bath and the massage we were two copacetically inclined  ladies.

L.G.: We were able to remember which road to take back to our cabin, meaning that the way back was more clearly marked. Then we were able to chill on the deck and grill out some goodies for dinner.

The more clearly marked road.

R: Could you share some of your recipes?

M: Yes. L.G. brought some lovely peppers from her garden which we stuffed with an assortment of cheeses we had on hand. You can’t mess this up.

L.G.: I also marinated some meat and put it on skewers, along with tomatoes from my garden. You may have guessed that my garden is more prolific than the Magpie’s.

M: Anyway the evenings were relaxing and peaceful. The last night we walked some of the trails on the property. One crossed a little spring. I don’t know which trail that was. We couldn’t seem to match the shape of the map to the shape of the property.

It was very quiet up there.

L.G. in a fit of stubbornness refused to pose coming out the door of the outhouse.

R: Are there other special aspects of your trip?

M: But of course. It is refreshing to travel with people who let you have a chance to use words which don’t come up in everyday conversation. Such as sobriquet. And nonce. And read. And discuss books.

Remember to serve refreshments at your book discussions.

L.G. Yes, Rod. Never would it behoove us, in the behemothian responsibilities  to which we subscribe but need not detail,  to insinuate  that you may yet harbor some refractory intransigent iota within the labyrinthine recesses of your bald yet indefaitgble pate which may indicate an opposing tableaux.

R: Whut?

M: She means she can’t believe you don’t already know that. Another important point is that when we get to be together we don’t spend it in an intellectual vacuum. We discuss lofty subjects, such as how those Scottish characters in our mystery shows say” maird – thur” instead of “murder.” We introduce one another to vitally enduring aspects of culture. For example L.G. had never seen “The Big Lebowski”. Now thanks to me she has, and can now more fully participate in the life of “The Dude.”

R: Right. How were you treated by the natives of Hot Springs?

M: Really, Rod they were all so kind and down to earth, you would have thought they had no idea they were talking with celebrities.

L.G.: Speak for yourself. They knew I was a celebrity!

R: We know you went rafting, so that is one local business you patronized. Were there others?

M: Yes, Rod. We rafted with the Huck Finn Rafting Company. They were very professional. It was my first time to raft you know.  I don’t think they took it personally that I was too afraid to jump off a big rock into the French Broad River.

L.G. Yes but I had told you specifically that if you climb the rock you have to jump!

M:  Rod, I’ve told L.G. that my feelings about not wanting to jump were quite strong and could not be ignored. As you know I must stay in touch with my feelings because of the work I do.

L.G.: Guffaws loudly.

R: That’s actually pretty ridiculous, Magpie.

M:  This AGGRESSION, man, it won’t stand!  Anyway, after rafting we lunched at the  Spring Creek Tavern where we had a view of the Spring Creek and a chance to taste  regional beers. L.G. prefers wine but after rafting I think she was ready to take whatever she could get.

L.G: On Tuesday many places were closed, so we motored over to Mars Hill because we just had to spend some time inside a bookstore. We  also tried Marshall NC but   many places,  especially meaning the bookstore, were closed there as well.

Definitely closed.

Also closed.

Closed in Hot Springs!

We would have liked to be able to visit every establishment in Hot Springs  but the days got away from us. We were, however,  able to visit a very nice place  on our way out of town. Yes, I know that through town is not the way we came. We did that on purpose.

R: OK so you knew where you were going on your way out of town. What was the establishment you visited?

M: Rod, it was The Black Horse Consignment Shop. This little shop has only been open for eight weeks, but it is full of shininess. I immediately saw these beauties

These chandeliers wanted us!

which I knew we must have. The owner was very friendly and accommodating. We must have browsed in there for an hour. As the owner of a small business I like to patronize other small businesses.

Inside the Black Horse

L.G.: Based on her inventory and prices I would say she is off to a good start. We both admired many more things than we bought. The prices were very reasonable, but it just wouldn’t be sporting to buy the poor woman’s entire stock   after she worked so hard to open the place.

Some of our goodies from the Black Horse.

The gracious proprietor of the the Black Horse.

M: The owner gave me permission to take pictures even though she has no idea of the quality of my photos. And she said I could mention her shop on my blog. And I’m grateful because  I HAVE to show the new chandeliers. One is for me and one is for L.G.

R: Magpie,  is there any chance of your mentioning this interview on your blog? And could you keep me apprised of any more trips you plan to make to the area? I want to stay on top of this story.

M: Rod, yes and yes. I am all about encouraging creativity wherever it may be found.

R:  And just one last question. Do you ladies know how to find your way out of this undisclosed location?

L.G. Oh certainly. Just as long as the way is clearly marked!